Words As Weapons

We have lost our mother fricken minds!

When did being civil to one another become a bother? I mean, really, is it too much to expect a real exchange with a honest to God human entity? We live in a world of automated artificial bliss, where faceless programs exist “supposedly” to enhance our customer experience.

image from will lyon via flickr creative commons

image from will lyon via flickr creative commons

I do not want to press 1 to continue in Espanol.

Recently, I had to make one of those calls where the first words uttered into my earhole were foreign palabras. Being the quick language study that I am, I did not press 1 to continue in Spanish. The automated response entity became aware that I was not a Spanish speaking customer by virtue of the profanity laced English words coming out of my mouth.

The automated sewer line released me into a labyrinth of options; press 2 for billing, press 3 for account support, press 4 for delivery options, press 5 for make me a sandwich, press 6 for a glimmer of hope, press 7 for…at this point my mind began to twist so tight that precious little oxygen flowed through to the brain cells and I wondered if I had pressed 1 and continued in Spanish, would I be connected with a real person. That person would probably be bi-lingual and able to help me. My consciousness returns from this brief out-of-body experience and I hear, “Press 12 to hear these options again.”

I press the * key, and the 0 key while yelling, “Let me talk to a real person!” I visualize the inner workings of this call center as a darker, sadistic version of the Willy Wonka factory where lights flick on every time a customer taps a button. So, I try S.O.S. in Morse code on my phone keypad, followed by the ages of my children, then the expiration date from the half empty container of yogurt in the refrigerator.


A chorus of Angels sing, “Please hold, your call is being transferred.”

My state of bliss is shattered at the recording, “Your call is important to us. All representatives are busy, please hold and your call will be answered in the inverse order of your frustration level.” Okay, it didn’t really say that, but you get the drift.

I grew a full beard in the time I waited to connect with a live body. My phone line crackled. At first I thought I’d been disconnected and would have to endure the push button path to enlightenment again. Then, a voice came on the line, a real honest to God person.

typical call center image by the boston public library via flickr creative commons

typical call center
image by the boston public library via flickr creative commons

“Hi my name is Amanda, thanks for calling (insert corporation here). How can I help you?” Now, I’ve had other encounters go South at this point with, “You need to call back and speak with a supervisor,” or, “The problem seems to be on your end (which roughly translates to: I’m not going to help you over the phone, when we can send out a technician and charge you for a service call). So imagine my surprise when she says, “How’s your day going?” as she types in my account information.

That simple. How was your day? A small kindness from one person to another. Customer disarmed.

Simple polite human interaction. It doesn’t happen that often lately. A harsh word from the lips of a loved one, cuts deep. A kind word from a stranger, heals. Words are weapons. How you wield them is up to you.

On the theme of words as weapons, here is the Seether song of the same title:

Any call center or customer service experiences you care to share with the class?


  1. Game Stop. Enough said

  2. stephanie710 · · Reply

    Ugh. I feel your pain. I can’t stand automated phone systems. I had a similar nightmare a few months back when my Subaru died in the driveway. It took over 22 hours of automated hell before their 24-hour roadside assistance showed. You’re right-it’s a labyrinth, black hole with no end in sight. Now go shave…Lol. 🙂

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