My wife thinks I’m too hard on telephone solicitors. “They’ve got to make a living,” she says. She objects that I let them go through their spiel, ask a lot of questions, decline the offer, then ask to speak to their supervisor to make certain everyone, including the persons listening to the recording made for training and verification purposes, understands I have declined the offer. I figure every moment I can delay the evil telephonic solicitation machine is a moment my fellow citizens are safe.

No matter the organization, I’ve always figured if they call my house selling or seeking donations, they are crooks.

Now, however, I think the telephone workers need our help.

HSBC, self-proclaimed as “The World’s Local Bank” with 8,000 offices in 88 countries and a credit card in your pocket, has figured a way to kite funds from unsuspecting customers via telephone (wire fraud if you or I were to pull the same stunt) while reducing the number of actual human beings they have to hire to make the calls.

Outsourcing annoying phone calls to India is no longer enough for the corporate bean counters. Now they’ve got one worker monitoring a computer device which can make multiple calls and play prerecorded message snippits in response to customer input.

Your phone rings. You say, “hello.” The machine says, “Is this (your name here)?” You say, “Yes.” The machine says, “How are you?” You say, “Fine. How are you?” The machine says, “Fine, thank you for asking, I’d like to tell you about the new HSBC credit protection plan…..”

I know. You’re smarter than me. You’d hang up right there, neither knowing nor caring whether this was man or machine as you drop the call. But remember, I’m thinking about my fellow citizens. I’m sacrificing to give you time to eat dinner and discuss the day’s activities with your wife.

I’m also thinking, there’s a lot of clicking and a sort of disjointedness to this solicitor’s sales pitch. I toss in a question. “Now, what bank did you say you’re with?”

A pause. A click. “I’m sorry, I didn’t get that. Could you repeat your question?”

There’s nobody home. “What’s the frequency, Kenneth?”

“Thank you, I wanted to speak to you about our credit protection program…” I could go round all day with this thing. I call time out. “May I speak to your supervisor?” The machine is programmed to deflect one request for the supervisor. “Yes, but first, can I confirm that you’d like to sign up…” “Let me speak to your supervisor, please.” Click. “Thank you. One moment while I connect you to a supervisor.”

I wait. I’m curious. When the supervisor comes on I ask a few questions to confirm that he’s a human being, working in Logan, Utah. I get to the point. “Was that a computerized call?” Yes it was. A phone bank calls a raft of customers every minute, latches onto live answerers, and spins through a programmed sales pitch. If a respondent expresses interest in the overpriced scheme, one of the few humans left on site is alerted to reel the mark in.

I ask the supervisor if the machines offer any advantage other than increasing profits for HSBC by eliminating the cost of humans. The supervisor wasn’t going for my populist line. He flipped a few pages of his script. “The advantage is that it helps us deliver a consistent message.

Stores are dumping cashiers for electronic check-out just as soon as they can train us morons to use the scanners and deposit our funds into their cash registers.

Now they’re cutting back on telephone solicitors. You just can’t get good help anymore for $4.00 an hour.

Piney Woods Pete

Piney Woods Pete

Hard-charging salesman by day, Piney Woods Pete stays up late into the foggy night to render words.