October 26, 2007

Do it yourself? Whose idea was that?

I guess I'm just an old-fashioned girl. While I am willing to concede some wonders of technology, in the customer-service arena, someone -- just about everyone who works for any entity, private or public -- has decided the customer deserves "care." Not "service." Not, "how may I help you?"

No, these days you speak or punch in your special number for whatever entity you are calling -- imagine an airline, if you will -- then the toneless voice inquires whether you are interested in type 1 (say or punch number now), type 2 (ditto), type 3 (more of the same), or whether you are a type 4 -- one who is more apt to punch O for Operator (pardon me, "representative").

If you are a type 4 person, you may or may not connect to a human voice, depending on whether the company can comply with a simple "help me. I'm the individual; you're Big Brother of the hour, and I have a few questions, none of which comply with the tone-free voice options."

Let us contrast the concept of procuring airline tickets using a travel agent versus directly interfacing (terrible word) with the computer to use frequent-flyer miles. In the first version, you pick up the phone, tell your travel agent of 25+ years where you and your mom need to go and what dates, and he procures the tickets and confirms your seats, and had the tickets in the mail months before we need to debate what to wear and how to entertain ourselves at our destination. One phone call, and you are ready to go.

In the second, more common, scenario, you are doomed from the start. To screw up the system, you want to book the same flight, different seats, for two people traveling together under separate frequent-flyer accounts. The computer lacks any comprehension of how this might be possible for the average traveler, following standard directions, to follow. Thus, we need not one, not two, but three human voices, because each is specialized in one department: the miles, the tickets, and finally, the reassurance that yes, you have achieved your goal.

Two tickets to Dothan. Alabama in January, the vacation spot of the see-and-be-seen, the once-and-again jet set. Sign us right up. It is the one place in the world you would swear no one in the world would choose to go, short of the occasion to celebrate your niece's one's first birthday. Apparently, you would be wrong. People are just clamouring to get on this little putt-putt Atlanta to Dothan plane. Seating is tight.

I hope they have left enough room to wind the rubber bands and that passenger weight is disbursed evenly. Otherwise, some of the overweight will have to get off the tiny craft and push downhill so we can get to the next stop. In Maine, as a child, I rode from point A to point B in a plane that required some of its passengers to do just that.

And that was before deregulation. In the days when the friendly skies bore some resemblance of being such. These days, not so much. Not at all, if you ask me. I suspect the airlines would be just as happy if I never showed my face, my pathetic Zip-Lock bag of miniature toiletries, and my shoeless, coatless, beltless, braless self again.

Not to mention the two checkpoints, 20 feet apart, to determine that my name hasn't changed and my boarding pass not been altered in the wilds of the airport corridor. If I didn't need a mode of transportation faster than a bus, I'd be happy to oblige.

However, this is the modern age, and the above is what is deemed a successful transaction between customer and airline. That is, assuming the planes leave at their appointed hours and the luggage is not lost in transit.

These days, we call that an overachieving act of transportation. Person A got from point A to point B in a close-to-timely fashion, with the help of bar codes, email messages, cell phones ringing at 2:52 am to confirm that the customer will rouse herself by 4;30 to make it to the airport.

For part II, try to call a computer company to figure out what quirks your machine has that the printed guide doesn't cover, and you are unable to get online to read the actual manual to try to troubleshoot the problem yourself.

For part III, try to conduct financial transactions on behalf of another person, over whom you have power of attorney and for whom the only financial transaction that matters is that her monthly check arrives on time, and try to comparison shop municipal bonds on her behalf.

Then, if you have any energy left over, attempt to change a halogen light bulb located where you will have to stand on the sink to gain access to the fixture.

After all this, eat some chocolate-covered pomegranate ice cream, have a cigarette, set three alarm clocks -- the TV, the radio, and the basic battery-operated travel clock -- and hope you make your plane. Then wonder how people with full-time jobs manage to get to pick up their groceries or dry cleaning. Be grateful that you are not among them. You wouldn't make it beyond the first day.

Do it yourself? Not if you can hire someone else to do it. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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Blogger The Misanthrope said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

4:10 PM  
Blogger The Misanthrope said...

You have nicely described the daily aggravations of life, granted slightly different for everyone, but nonetheless hurdles we have to jump and obstacles we have to avoid. And, for those of us who sit under florescent lights add in office politics.

8:26 AM  
Anonymous Teresa said...

Wait. There are people who don't have full-time jobs? And aren't trying to get one? Gah! And I was all high this week for having won an office accommodation—again, after having fought and won the same battle just one year ago; apparently, when office space runs short, executives assume that any neurological complications for which an employee has previously been accommodated develop awesome self-correcting powers, so it was back to cubicle land for me until I could produce a letter from my doctor, and you know how busy they can be. Talk about your non-service-oriented service providers.

At any rate, this option of staying home seems appealing. Do you happen to market a DVD that can tell ME, an ordinary American, how to make thousands on real estate without ever having to change out of my pajamas?

2:32 AM  
Blogger the only daughter said...

i ordered two cups. 1 Q and one Z. I get the Q but no the Z. 3 emails later they finally confirm that I do indeed want the Z. Oops, the clerk issued credit instead of shipping. Confirm...do you want the Z?

Oh puuuhhhhlleeeeeeze send the Z! ! They do, finally--but to the wrong address. AND the delivery agent leaves it at the rarely used back entrance. Aaaarrrrgggghhhh.

9:58 PM  

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