Illiteracy or Laziness?

Brief medical update:  I feel a bit worse – still have a nightly fever, joint/muscle pain, and all the rest of the recurrent symptoms.  Haven’t gotten a call for more tests (to follow up on the 2 that were abnormal), so I guess I will have to wait until my November appointment with the rheumatologist to find out anything more.

Ok, today’s rant is about the frustration involved when trying to communicate with people who either do not have a good understanding of English (and I am not necessarily referring to non-native speakers), or are too cognitively lazy to understand English.  In other words, I don’t have an issue with people who live in the US but do not know very much English – I happen to believe that citizens here should be able to speak any language they want, as we are (mostly) a nation full of immigrants.

No, the issue I am having is with people I have been communicating with who require several attempts on my part before they can respond in a way that makes sense.  I can tell that they actually DO know English, as their grammar and so on are correct.  But I do not understand why even the simplest of (in my case) emails is replied to with irrelevent and sometimes even angry responses that indicate to me that the person had no idea what I just wrote to them.

I will give you an example of an ongoing communication that I just recently gave up on because I was so frustrated that it wasn’t worth the aggravation.

Sometimes I participate in online surveys.  More times than I would like, something goes wrong with the survey, usually a technical problem.  I will usually note the survey number if I can find it, and then email customer service to tell them their survey isn’t working right.  Usually I am just trying to be helpful – rarely is it ever a case of, “Hey I finished this survey and then got an error page, and now I didn’t get my reward points.”

If I did this a lot, I could see why they might get all snippy with me.  But it’s usually, “Hey this survey said ‘press this button’ but there was no button, and I got stuck in a loop and had to task-manager out of it. Thought you might want to know about this.”

Sometimes the response I get is a thank you, and a note that they have taken the survey offline to fix it.  Most times, however, the exchange goes like this:

Me: I was asked to register for a (name of) community forum through your site, but when I hit “ok” I got redirected to the Google search homepage.  So I wasn’t able to even register for the forum.  I think there may be a technical problem with this particular survey.

Them: We received your email and are sorry for the inconvenience this issue may have caused, but we are unable to award you any points because we cannot verify that you finished the survey.  Please allow until the survey has closed before you contact us again.

Me: But I am not writing you about award points.  I am trying to tell you about a problem I had with the survey in case anyone else is having the same problem.

Them: We have looked into this particular survey and do not see that you have participated in it.  Please try the link again.

Me:  That’s the point – I can’t participate because it kicks me to the Google search homepage before I can even register for it.

Them: What’s the survey number?

Me:  I didn’t see one but you just got through telling me you looked it up and couldn’t see my participation in the survey, so surely you must know the survey number?

Them: We will need either a survey number or a screen shot that indicates you completed the survey before points can be awarded.

Usually at this point I would write a long, detailed email explaining things in a numbered list.  But I don’t feel well today and I sure don’t feel up to doing this just so I can help some company out.   A company who cannot even understand what it is I am writing about, so they just go with the default “customer is bitching about her points” responses.


4 thoughts on “Illiteracy or Laziness?

  1. charlies5169

    When you pay minimum wage, you get a minimum wage attitude. Many of these Help (-less) desk people work from a script and have a checklist of possible problem conditions. If you’re specific problem is not on the list, they can’t help you. At the same time, they don’t want to escalate to the next level and appear that they don’t know how to do their job. So they hope that you eventually get frustrated and forget about. It also saves the company money because they don’t have to spend a lot of time fixing problems.

    Ten years ago, I was working on a project for BellSouth in Atlanta. I was supposed to develop training to teach new hires how to use new software to support some new DSL products. My first question, naturally, was who is the audience? Who am I writing for?

    My project manager sighed and leaned back in her chair and said “The Help Center is going to be in a small town in South Carolina. The city was very excited about the jobs, but they asked that they don’t pay any more than $8.00 an hour so people don’t leave the lumberyard to work there instead.”


  2. Victoria Post author

    Makes sense. I worked in a customer service call center but at least we would actually acknowledge the customer’s problem – I guess that’s easier to blow off when you’re dealing with email…
    So the city wanted a cap on wages? That’s pretty low-down.


  3. charlies5169

    They just opened a huge call center about 10 miles up the road from us. They contract out to many, many different companies. So the person that you spoke to about your computer problem might have the next call be about a dishwasher, and the one after that might be figuring out the expiration date on an orange juice bottle. And for all this expertise, they pay a whopping $9.00 an hour.


  4. Victoria Post author

    Geez. The one I worked for – that consequently moved to the Philippines – had your pay based on time. You had, as I recall, 3 minutes 50 seconds to resolve a sales call or your pay went down. People claimed you could make $12/hour but I never saw that. What I did see was a lot of people hanging up on customers when the call got too long. They said they recorded the calls, but they never really did – as I found out the day they canned me (after 1 1/2 years) because a customer made baseless claims that I could have defended myself against had they pulled the recording. This is why I caution people to calm down before they start bitching to supervisors about workers, because you can actually get someone fired.



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