Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Whatever Happened to Humans?

I am absolutely convinced two of the main contributors to the unemployment currently plaguing our nation are Republicans and machines.  Whatever happened to pleasant receptionists who used to answer the phone and were able to explain to you whether or not their company, or anyone around, could be of assistance to you?  I particularly dislike the machine which has replaced the receptionist wherein they ask you to spell the name of the person to whom you want to talk.  First of all, you have to know a person.  Second of all, you have to know how to spell his or her name.  

If I’d had all of that information, I would have probably had their number to begin with and wouldn’t have to deal with such a creature who required all this information.  

It seems to me that if machines have a purpose it should be to keep people from having to go to a lot of trouble in the business world when they seek to purchase goods or services from someone.  'Seems to me that more and more machines, particularly answering devices, are doing just the opposite.  Trying to find the proper place for a simple repair is a good example.

Recently, I had need to inquire about a repair to one of my shop tools--a floor model Craftsman drill press.  After finding no local number for repairs or service, I in desperation dialed the 1-800 number. After several rings I received a recording.  “You have reached the Sears store in Port Arthur, Texas. However, if you are calling about automotive, appliances...”  and about ten other choices, push so and so. None of the ten choices exactly fitted my needs, so I pushed zero.  I was greeted by another machine which obviously did not understand plain English.  I repeated my request and was promptly transferred to yet another machine containing a list, none of which fit my problem.  I had yet ten more choices and the final choice on this one was for a service person.  I gleefully pushed that button and was treated to about five minutes of elevator music.  Eventually, some exotic sounding person-- who had neither an American-variety accent nor fluency in English-- answered.  He asked if he could be of service or help, which I understood on the second try, so I informed him I was seeking repairs for a floor model drill press.  He replied, “A grill?”  No, I said, a drill.  He obviously didn’t understand what a drill was.  

I explained to him patiently I was looking for repairs to a machine which sat on the floor and was used to bore holes.  He requested that I wait just a moment, whereupon I was treated to about seven minutes of elevator music.  When he finally came back on the line, he had mastered the task of saying drill press.  I told him yes, that’s what I wanted.  Repairs to my drill press.  He treated me to more music while I held once again.  Finally, the fellow whom I decided was Sinbad the exotic Indian phone voice returned with, “What is your area code?”  I gave it and after about another five minutes of waiting and more music he returned once again with a phone number and address for the Sears service center in Orange, Texas.

Gleefully, I called the new number and was rewarded with an answer from a voice with a decidedly Texas accent.  The Texas accent knew what a drill was right away.  I asked him if they could fix it.  “Nope,” he says, “We’ll have to ship it off.”  “How long will that take?” I asked.
“Two weeks,” he said.  

I send my healthy young runner to pick up my floor model drill press and take it to the service center in Orange only to learn they do not ship off floor model drill presses, only table model drill presses. Nonetheless, I am told we can take it to a service center in Beaumont.

The following day I send my in-need-of-repair floor model drill press to the Sears center in Beaumont only to learn they do not accept items for repair.  They will send a service man out to the location where the drill press is and will repair it there.  “Fine, come on out,” I say.  “Well, you can have an appointment 22 days from now,” he said.  I asked, “Will you let me know somehow?”  He says, “Well, you should call the service center.”  

At first I considered seriously just throwing my hands up and start shopping for a new floor model drill press, but then I think, what sort of adventure awaits me when I start trying to make a phone call concerning a scheduled appointment of a service person to my home?  I can hardly wait to find out!  Perhaps it will provide enough material for another article. Stand by.


  1. The ones I hate are the automated answering systems that ask you to press 1 for English. No, how 'bout asking me to press 1 for anything OTHER than English?

    Austin's Capital Metro Transportation Authority had the worst system of all time. It literally did not understand English. It would tell you that if you wished to continue in English, say "English." Fair enough. But then when you said "English" it would say "I did not understand your response." Literally every time I would call I wound up screaming the word English into my phone five times.

    When my wife got a pacemaker years ago, I soon discovered that the most disquieting thing about getting a pacemaker was that a few hours after the procedure, this sweet young thing who looked like one of Bob Barker's "Price Is Right" girls came into your hospital room with a winning smile and presented you with your Medtronic Five Year Limited Warranty. It was unnerving to know that failure of the device was even possible, and was of little consolation to know that if it did fail, Medtronic would replace it...but only within five years and only if you weren't already dead.

    This caused me to wonder what it is like to have to make a claim on Medtronic's warranty. I figured that after dialing 1-800-NO-PULSE it would go something like this:

    "Thank you for calling Medtronic, a subsidiary of the Hamilton Beach Corporation. If you are calling about your Hamilton Beach blender, toaster, or carving knife, please press 1. If you are calling about your Medtronic pacemaker, please press 2....(next menu)....If your Medtronic pacemaker is still working, press 1. If your Medtronic pacemaker has stopped working, press 2....

    Sure enough, my wife's pacemaker conked out at four years and eight months. She got a Code 3 ride in the back of an ambulance with a thready pulse and a blood pressure reading of 50-over-30. Her attending physician was out of town but his partner came to the ER "stat." He took a look at the situation and frowned, and referring to his colleague, shook his head and said "I'm plumbing, he's electrical."

    The gizmo got replaced free of charge (nyuk-nyuk-nyuk), but not without a near-death experience. There was nothing funny about it at the time.

  2. dickson, if you have a blog [you have TIME for that?!!] i'm signing on as a permanent admirer...


All comments are reviewed and it may take a little bit before your comment is published. Anonymous contributions take a lot longer and may perish for lack of attention.