HUMAN VERSUS COMPUTER – BY ELLIN CURLEY

People today talk nostalgically about a time when you always dealt with human beings on the phone and not computers. We believe that humans are responsive to our specific questions and take an interest in our unique situation. Therefore they can give you individualized help and service, which we assume is superior.

I’m not sure if that idealized past ever really existed or if we have collectively re-imagined this happy time in our history. I know that disembodied voices on the phone attached to living people have generously and graciously helped me negotiate bureaucratic nightmares in bygone days.Cartoon - Your call is important to us

Today, I don’t know whether to be happy or scared when I hear a human voice on the other end of the phone. At least with a recording, you can still hope that when you finally find a real person to talk to, they will straighten everything out. Here is the incident that triggered this rant.

My husband’s father died and my husband wanted to cancel his deceased father’s car insurance. He talked to a lady and told her that he wanted to cancel the policy because his father had passed away. The woman said she couldn’t do that. When my husband asked why, she said that you should never cancel a car policy because if his father ever drove his car again without the insurance, he would be fined. My husband patiently explained that there was no way his father would be driving again.

“How can you be sure?” the insurance lady inquired.

“Because he is dead.” My husband replied, trying not to yell. That should have ended the conversation with a win for my husband.

The phone lady’s response was Kafkaesque. “Oh!” she said. “Then I’ll have to talk to my supervisor.”

cartoon - please leave prayer at sound of beep

People on the other end of corporate or bureaucratic phone lines today do not seem to have the same great track record that we fondly remember. Maybe people don’t care as much about other people unless they are communicating with them via Twitter or Facebook. Maybe people don’t take pride in their jobs as much these days. Maybe people just aren’t as smart or knowledgeable as they used to be.

Whatever the reason, I used to automatically ask for a representative to help me when I had to call an institution of any kind. Now I give the computer lady a shot and if that fails, then I resort to a human. Artificial intelligence might not be that bad after all, if it is actually intelligent.

cartoon - to sink press ONE to swim press TWO

But one good thing did come out of the discussion with the car insurance lady. It gave Tom and I the idea for a piece for our audio theater group VoiceScapes Audio Theater. It’s about a guy calling the cable company to cancel his dead father’s cable account. It’s called “Till Death Do Us Not Part.” It’s very funny. And very true.

15 thoughts on “HUMAN VERSUS COMPUTER – BY ELLIN CURLEY”

      1. I have had relatively good luck with service departments but Tom has had the nightmares from Hell. Maybe because he deals with tech services and I deal with a catalogue or the appliance repair people.

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      1. They said they were from the bank and our credit card had been compromised. After a long song and dance they finally asked me what our credit card number was. I said I wasn’t going to tell them. They told me to call the phone number on the back of the card to verify it was them. I noticed that they didn’t hang up so I could have called and they would still be on the line. I waited for a dial tone before dialling. The guy from the bank said this was a new one and he expect to have more calls about that today.

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            1. My brother in law got a call from the “IRS” asking for information. The IRS NEVER calls anyone for information. They only work through the mail. He almost gave away crucial information but was smart enough to call his brother to check first.

              Liked by 1 person

  1. This reminds of the time a magazine company called and demanded payment for a subscription that my husbands great aunt had years before. We bought her home, there had been no magazines in her name for years.
    I asked the person exactly when this so-called subscription started, she told me the month. When I told her that it was odd considering she had passed away years before. She hung up on me!

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    1. It’s usually easy to catch these people in their lies. You just have to question them and get specifics. Sometimes Tom likes to string them along for a while before he shuts them down. Not me. I’m out right away.

      Liked by 1 person

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