Every adult who’s ever had a cable or telephone or power bill in their name has experienced The Call.
It can happen when something goes wrong, like the television signal dropping out or an inexplicable extra zero appearing in this month’s bill. It can happen when you’re simply trying to make a change to your service, like deleting a movie channel or adding a smartphone. But whatever the initial cause, we all know that sinking feeling when you’re dialing the number for “customer service.”
There’s the scripted introduction, the recitation of your vital statistics (“for security purposes”), the obvious disinterest as you explain your problem, and then the long wait while the phone rep “reviews your records.” And then, far more often than not, comes, “I’m sorry, but I can’t help you with that.” That’s when you know for sure that you’re in for a long and annoying fight.
The level of pain inflicted by The Call (and all the calls that inevitably follow it) rises exponentially with the size and age and monopoly status of the company you’re dealing with. The satellite TV companies aren’t a cakewalk, but they’re still better than the local cable monopoly, and even the cable companies are easier to manage than any outfit that was formerly known as “the phone company” (yes, AT&T and Verizon, I’m talking to you). Deep within the DNA of the remaining telco providers still resides Lily Tomlin’s famous slogan, “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”
Even for all that, for all the frustration and incompetence and outright buffoonery you have to put up with when dealing with a cable or telephone monopoly, or (just for instance) an insurance company, you’re still talking about a private entity, a corporation. And as everybody in the blogging age knows, a corporation can be embarrassed. A corporation can be pressured. A corporation can be held up to public ridicule and shamed into living up to its promises, into making right the things its bureaucracy screws up. At the worst instance, a corporation can be sued.
But what if you’re not dealing with a corporation? What if the person on the other end of that line can’t be fired and couldn’t care less what you might say about their employer on Twitter?
In other words, what if you’re dealing with the government? Ever try to get the Postal Service to pay up on your destroyed but “insured” package? That was a little different from getting Comcast to fix your bill, wasn’t it?
That’s the future we’re all looking at if Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama manage to unload their misbegotten offspring of a “health care” bill onto the public.