M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Tuesday, November 12, 2002  

If you’re reading this in the twenty-first century, chances are pretty good that at some point in your life, you’ve called a customer service line. Chances are slightly less good, but still pretty good, that before you got through to a real, live customer service rep, you heard an announcement stating that “For quality and security purposes, your call will be recorded.” Maybe you have that little flare of self-consciousness, followed by the thought that the recording is for your own protection. But do you ever think about the poor bastard who has to actually do the recording?

Well, you’re going to today, because that poor bastard is me.

It’s really not as bad as it sounds. It’s not like I have to sit in a dark room for eighteen hours with a sludge-filled coffeepot and a reel-to-reel tape recorder like Agent Mulder after he’s been bad. Our Call Center is more sophisticated than that. Our coffee’s good.

No, I’m kidding. When potential clients visit the site, it’s my job to crow about our digital recording system that automatically records a month’s worth of audio for the entire site onto a tape that’s about a third the size of a pack of cigarettes. I boast about the efficient storage-and-retrieval system I created for the tapes so I can pull up any call from the past six years and play it back in a matter of minutes. All I really have to do to keep the thing going is change the tapes every once in a while. And the truth is that it’s really pretty cool.

When it works, that is.

When it doesn’t, it’s a nightmare. I’m going to let you in on a dirty little secret, which is that calls are recorded not just for your protection, but also for ours. If there’s no record of a conversation, there’s nothing to prevent John Q. Client from calling in, sinking 7.3 million dollars into the Amalgamated Suckers Fund, then calling back when his balance is thirty-two cents and claiming that 1) we screwed up, 2) he really meant to invest in the Gates-Buffett Guaranteed Free Money Fund, and therefore 3) we now owe him North America. Nothing, that is, except John Q. Client’s conscience, and you know how reliable that is when the White House is included in the pot. Multiply that by several thousand calls per day, and you can see how going off the record could get expensive in a hurry.

The recording system has two tape decks. We generally use one to record the calls, and the other one to play back old ones when we need to. Last week the deck we were using for retrieval started telling me all of our old tapes were defective, so we switched that one to recording and used the other one for retrieval. Now the current retrieval desk is not only hosed as well, it won’t release the tape I was trying to pull calls from yesterday. And when I try to play back calls that are supposed to be stored in the machine’s memory buffer, all I hear are clear, detailed instructions from Satan, which corporate confidentiality prevents me from revealing here. One deck will still record, but that’s all. The bottom line is that instead of two tape decks, we have half of one.

It’s all right, though, because we’re scrapping the whole system for a new one. This one won’t even require tapes at all, and will instead store calls on a server that I’ll be able to access online. The new equipment is scheduled for installation in September 2002, and I’m really looking forward to it.

Oh, wait.

For one reason and another, the higher-ups have postponed the upgrade indefinitely. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the company that provided tech support for our current recording gear has gone out of business and left us without a service contract. I don’t know how that happened, considering how busy we kept them, but it did. Now we have to pay someone else to come look at our recorder, to the tune of a pretty big chunk of the Gates-Buffett Guaranteed Free Money Fund, just for walking in the door. It’s frustrating because with one deck out of commission and the other one partially so, I feel like I’m trying to fly a 747 with only one engine (with a few slight differences, viz., it’s much easier and a lot less scary and I’m unlikely to kill anyone).

One way or another, it better get fixed soon. Otherwise I might just open an account of my own, if you know what I mean.

* * *

Some marvelous people did a marvelous thing for me today. Judging by my referral logs, that’s how about eighty per cent of you found me here. I’m very grateful to Deborah, Glark, and my wonderful wife Trash for the banner ad on the Television Without Pity forums. I wasn’t expecting that at all. So, big cyber-hug for Deborah; I’ll spend the whole evening reading this for Glark; and for Trash…well, some of you are reading this at work, so never mind. I will say I'm going to have to come up with something pretty damn good for her birthday on Friday, though.

With all this new traffic, I just hope I can deal with all the pressure I’m going to be putting on myself to write gooder.

posted by M. Giant 3:24 PM 0 comments


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