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American Customer Service

The United States offers a lot of conveniences and advancements with respect to (certain parts of) Europe, but I find the level of automation and corporate cost reduction a bit disturbing. Most calls to American customer support lines recently are a bit too consistent with my call yesterday to Earthlink:

Earthlink: Hello, can I have your name.

Me: Matt Henderson

EL: Thanks, Matt, how can we help today? We’re here to help.

Me: I live outside the US, and would like to arrange internet and TV service for a house in Georgia that I’ll be visiting this summer. I’m calling to find out what products you offer.

EL: Do you have a promotional code?

Me: (???) Um, no, I don’t.

EL: Great, can I have that code please.

Me: I said, I *don’t* have one.

EL: Oh, sorry. Can I have your email address please?

Me: (???) Uh, ok… it’s matt.henderson at

EL: Can you tell me how you learned of Earthlink?

Me: Well, it came to me in a dream I had a few days ago. Do you plan to eventually tell me about the products/services you have available?

EL: Great, thank you. [I’m seeing her clicking the “Other” option on the screen about now.] Can I have your address please?

Me: (I give the address of my house)

EL: Great. Can I have your phone number, please?

Me: Well, I’m calling from Spain, where I live, and so I don’t have a phone number in the US yet.

EL: I’m sorry, I need a number. Even your cell (mobile) number will do.

Me: Didn’t you hear what I just said?

EL: Excuse me?

Me: I don’t live in the US, and so I don’t yet have a phone number there. Anyway, can you not tell me about your product offerings *without* a phone number?

EL: Well… how can we schedule the installation if we don’t have a number?

Me: (???!) What?!? I’m not trying to schedule an installation!

EL: Well… we need that number to check what products are available in your area.

Me: You said I could give you cell number? You can’t check my “area” with a cell number! Can’t you just tell me what you sell?!?

EL: I’m really sorry, but those are the rules.

Unbelievable. I asked, and was finally transferred to her supervisor, who also read from a script, but apparently had the authority to bypass certain “fields” on the screen. She informed me they offer “satellite” internet and TV access (1 Mb bandwidth! Yippee, worse than southern Spain!) for only about $120 per month. Please be aware, Mr Henderson, we’ll need to install two receiver dishes in your front yard, and cut down any trees along the line to the southern horizon. Oh, and the equipment costs $599, but I’m authorized to give you (because you’re you!) a special offer, and allow you to finance that $599 over a one year period.

Thanks Earthlink, let me think about it. “Would you like to schedule an automated call-back, Mr Henderson.” Uh, no, that won’t be necessary. “Well, I hope I’ve answered all your questions in a prompt and courteous way. And I hope you have a WONDERFUL day, Mr Henderson. When I hang up, you may be directed to a survey regarding your experience. Please remember my code is 314. Bye bye!”

Published inTidbits


  1. Stefan Seiz Stefan Seiz

    Seing more and mote Tech companies outsorce theit Support to india is also a sad thing. Nothing against indians, but i simply can’t communicate them verbaly due to most of them having such a strong accent that it gives me a headache to try to understand them.

    I’ve seen this outsourcing happen with Akamai and Google and the Quality of support really suffered big time. This is so silly, as the costsavings “might” make the investors happy for a second, but the business will be terribly hurt in the long run. Akamai for instance used to have top-notch techsupport and that is what i expect considering the amount of money you pay for their service.

  2. Administrator Administrator

    In this instance, I’m quite sure the first level support was based in India, as the girl had an indian name and accent, and the transfer to second-level support took a long time, and you could hear the pops and switching you might expect moving a call from india back to the US over VOIP networks and the like.

    I was actually going to comment something similar to what you said, but it also happened the other day I needed some support on a bizarre QuickBooks issue. I called Intuit, and their service is also provided from India. The experience in that instance was completely different. In fact, I think it was the best customer support experience I’ve ever had. The guy (who answered the phone at random) seem to know all about QB running in the Mac environment, and new exactly what had gone wrong in my migration from one Mac to another.

What do you think?

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