Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Will You Answer This Brief Survey?

Undoubtedly you’ve called an airline, an insurance company or some utility and after you go through the prompts and are waiting to speak to a representative (if that is what you want to do), you hear the electronically generated voice asking “would you be willing to take a brief survey after this call?” If you're an average Alice or Jerry, you’re going to respond with an enthusiastic “no!” You’ve already been waiting and may even have been given a time slot which has already lapsed and having to answer a series of inane questions is an added indignity. Providers provide. You’re not supposed to help them. They’re there to help you. That’s what you’re paying for. What are they after? Do they really study these surveys? What if the representative I’m talking to has not been helpful? What if I have not found it easy to get information from the site? What if I give the lowest rating to the services that the company provides? What are they going to do? Stop everything and make changes right while I’m waiting on the phone? Are they going to dose the representative with a little electric shock as both a punishment and training procedure a la B.F. Skinner’s rat psychology? However, you can’t help but feel a bit guilty. Even though the sweet sounding request is made up of bytes of data that constitute, pure information generated by a robot, you can’t help but feel that your acid tone has has stung someone. It’s like the panhandler on the subway. You want to think of yourself as a generous and caring person but sometimes it’s just too much. It’s morning, you’re tired and you’ve got a headache since you haven’t slept and someone is in your face loudly giving their spiel about the disease they have or the fact that they haven’t eaten or that even a penny or a crust of bread will help (by the way you know that they will not be satisfied with either) when you barely have the wherewithal to put one foot in front of the other and all you want is to be allowed to crawl into your own little hole, your la la land until the shit hits the fan and you’re back at your desk with the phone calls, texts and e mails coming. The problem is, these electronically generated voices are much nicer than most people. Google Maps and Siri undoubtedly are more pleasant than your partner and if you make a wrong turn Google Maps isn’t going to call you an idiot. It will simply say something like “recalculating the route.” So you imagine the person to whom you have given such an unequivocal “no” as being dejected. You imagine them in the ether in which these voices reside and you imagine the equivalent of an unhappy expression, resignation or even depression on the mouth of a piece of data. You don’t like being turned down or talked to in this way and you’re sure they have feelings of some kind and don’t like it either. You even want to call back and revise your earlier response. You feel so guilty that you want to say “yes I will take the survey” or “yes I will take the survey if you answer my call” or “I’ll take your fucking survey if  you pick up the goddam horn already!”

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