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 gmail.com
EL: Can you tell me how you learned of Earthlink?
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!”