Thursday, February 21, 2008

Spirits in the material world

The story you're about to hear is true. Only certain details have been changed, to protect the mental capacity of the author.


Computer: "Hello, and welcome! Thank you for calling Hewlett-Packard. Para supporto en espanol, blahdibladibla. Let's get started! [sounding helpful and concerned] I need to ask you a few questions. When you hear what you need, just tell me. Remember, you need to speak up so I can hear you, puny human."

Cous: "I would like to ask a question about my plotter-"

Computer (interrupting): "That is not an option. Please repeat one of the following options: to buy stuff, say 'buy stuff,' or try 'marketing' or 'replacement parts' or 'technical support.'"

Cous: "Technical support."

Computer: "Okay! Technical support! Please repeat the name of your product when you hear it, and don't worry about interrupting me."

Cous: "Alright, as long as you don't mind-"

Computer (interrupting): "That is not an option! Please say one of the following: printers, computers, personal electronics, cameras, prune juicers..."

*Long pause*

Computer: "To hear more products, say 'more products,' dummy."

Cous: "More products."

Computer: "Alright! More products! I'd wet myself I'm so excited, if only I had the capacity to do so! Please repeat one of the following: software, robots, rock, paper, scissors, Pantene Pro-V..."

Cous: "Printers."

Computer: "That is not an option!"

At this point, Cous is forced to hang up, because his phone-holding hand has to prevent his other hand from strangling him, a la Dr. Strangelove.

The chances of this reaching the right people are negligible, but please. Please, I beg of you. If you design telephone support systems, do not EVER make them voice-prompt operated. It does not make the computer resemble a human being, except that I begin to think that it is capable of hatred on a superhuman level.

If I am communicating with a machine, I am perfectly happy to do so by pushing buttons. What I am not interested in doing is repeating its own phrases back to it, like a dog which has been commanded to "speak." When you have invented a computer which can actually respond to questions, get back to me, but when it is only capable of recognizing the same twelve phrases it spits at me, and then you subject your paying customers to interaction with this unutterably obnoxious machine, I refuse to call this anything but an insult to my personhood and an affront to the very concept of speech.

**end rant**


Cecilia said...

great story!
did the computer really call you dummy?

John Lynch said...


die Amerikanerin said...

The ones I hate most are those that not only lead you through string after string of automated messages, but also never give you an option to talk to a real person. I hates them.

DaWheeze said...

Ouch, I feel your pain.

Maggie&Suzie said...

hello, have you learned nothing from my experience with DTE Energy? If you just say "Help" enough times (very flatly), eventually they send you to a real person... its true that everyone in the office who can hear you will laugh at you, but you eventually speak to a real person. "HELP"

Alexis said...

try calling one of those places when you have kids yelling in the background - every time one of them yell the computer gets confused and says, "I'm sorry, I don't understand you". I just push 0 continually until I get a human being - even they don't speak/understand English any better then the computer half the time.