Faceless World

Faceless World (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am a great lover of new technology, but only when it makes people’s lives easier or more enjoyable. In a connected world, you can find just about any form of goods or services with a google search and a few clicks. That side of life is superb, especially if you are looking for something niche or esoteric. Where I hate technology is when it is used for the sake of it or to keep people at bay.

Sometimes, your enquiry has a bit more nuance than just searching for the right item in the right size and clicking the add to basket button. Sometimes you want to talk through the options with something or someone who has passed the Turing test. The last thing many companies want is for you to speak to a real life human being. Human beings are comparatively expensive, even on minimum wage or on the other side of the world in a sweatshop.

They would rather hide their phone numbers and when you look for more assistance, direct you to a glorified FAQ page with the things that people commonly ask. They are missing the point. The whole reason you want to speak to someone is because you have a question that’s not that common. If it were, whatever it was you sought would be in plain sight.

Sometimes they use a chat mechanism. Despite the message on the website saying there are umpteen agents available, you click to link to open up a session, only to be told that the site is waiting for the next available operator. If there are so many agents available, why do I have to wait? Then, eventually, a window opens and the agent introduces themselves.

“Hello, my name is Derek. How can I help you?”

I feel like typing in “Your name’s not Derek at all. Can you get a real human being to phone me on this number”.

Of course I don’t. I play the game and type in my enquiry. I then wait… and wait. Because “Derek” or whoever it is has loads of different chat windows open talking to many people at once. First you get radio silence. Then you get “Derek is typing a response”. Either Derek only has one finger or he’s a rubbish typist because it takes him ages to type his terse reply in the form of an open-ended question. I appreciate the need for businesses to keep costs down, but I can’t imagine a more detached sales channel.

Surely it’s worth lavishing a little more attention on a potential prospect?

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It’s all for Charity

Money cash

Money cash (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

A local charity had never received a donation from the town’s banker, so the director made a phone call.

“Our records show you make $500,000 a year, yet you haven’t given a penny to charity,” the director began. “Wouldn’t you like to help the community?”

The banker replied, “Did your research show that my mother is ill, with extremely expensive medical bills?”

“Um, no,” mumbled the director.

“Or that my brother is blind and unemployed? Or that my sister’s husband died, leaving her broke with four kids?”

“I … I … I had no idea.”

“So,” said the banker, “if I don’t give them any money, why would I give any to you?”

Unlike our banking friend, most of us try to give some money to charity as and when we can. We probably do this for a number of reasons. Maybe it’s to ease our conscience or it could be to make a difference to something we feed strongly about. For some it’s about helping others or a form of giving back to the community. Whatever the reason, there are a huge number to choose from. In the UK alone, there are 180,000 registered charities, which is roughly one for every 350 people.

I find that number staggering. It’s certainly good that there’s a lot of choice of where to donate your hard-earned money. I’m sure the vast majority do a fantastic job for their chosen cause. But isn’t it rather too many? Private enterprises merge because they know that the value of the whole is likely to be greater than the sum of the two parts.  Much of the overhead of running the organisation is vastly reduced. You don’t need two lots of HR, Finance and Marketing. You also don’t need two CEOs which can only be a good thing when you consider some of the salaries for charity appointments in the broadsheets.

The granularity is great if you want your money to go somewhere very specific and that could be very important to someone who’s been helped by charity. If you’ve been rescued by the Lesser Piddling-on-the-Marsh air ambulance and that made the difference between life and death, you probably want your money to go in that particular direction. But I’m less convinced about the large generalist charities. Do we really need teabags in need, save the teabags and national society for the prevention of gross insensitivity to teabags?


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