Thursday, April 02, 2009

An anecdote illustrating why the economy is as bad as it is

And, no, my blogging in the morning when I'm theoretically at my most productive is not the illustration I'm hoping to make.... Anyway, in this otherwise entirely true story, we've disguised the name of the corporate behemoth in question so as not to embarrass anyone (or get me sued). We'll make up a name for the giant telephone monopoly... let's see now... how about AT&TT?

Two men came to the Undisclosed Location the other day. One was 30-ish and swarthy. One of the lawyers with whom I share this space thought him "unshaven." The other visitor was older, gray-haired, and silent.

My colleague got to the reception window first. I heard Swarthy Man say he and his companion were from AT&TT and I pirouetted, retreating to the comparative safety of my inner sanctum.

My colleague told me later that Swarthy Man had no business card, though he flashed what may have been an identification card. Swarthy Man asked my colleague for his office phone number, then said that AT&TT has some great new deal that will save him all sorts of money on his business account (which, by the way, is with AT&TT). "Call this number," Swarthy Man directed and my colleague adjourned to his own office for this purpose. At least he left Swarthy Man and Old Silent Guy sitting in our lobby.

I could hear (from my vantage point hiding underneath my desk) that my colleague was on the phone -- he put the call on speaker -- and I could tell he was on hold. He later told me that he was on hold for 20 minutes before he reached a person, a woman, who asked his permission to release all his account information to her.

"Excuse me," my colleague said, "you're supposedly AT&TT. I am an AT&TT customer. Why don't you have my account information already?"

Different departments, she said.

"Where are you?" he asked.

"Nebraska," she said.

I don't know how Swarthy Man rejoined the conversation. In the middle of all this, I suddenly recollected an important errand and bolted from the office. (I never said I wasn't a coward, did I?) When I left, Swarthy Man and Old Silent Guy were sitting in our lobby. One of them had a laptop out and was also apparently trying to make a speaker phone connection.

My colleague told me, however, that when he declined Nebraska Lady's invitation to 'release' his account information, Swarthy Man became quite pushy and insistent.

My colleague had had enough. He'd already called the Office of the Building to inquire whether these people were supposed to be wandering around loose. (I didn't hear this call; he did this quietly so Swarthy Man and Old Silent Guy wouldn't know.) Anyway, my colleague directed our visitors to the Office of the Building and suggested they peddle their fish there.

I got back shortly after they'd gone. My colleague was still upset about the whole thing. "My BS-meter was going off the scale," he said. "I was very uncomfortable." He paused. Then he smiled. "Good thing I used your name and phone number, isn't it?"

"Thanks ever so," I said.

But this is not quite the end of the tale. My colleague called the Office of the Building back to see if the building manager had anything further on these two men. "They're still in her office," he told me.

Then, a few minutes later, a young woman came into our office. My colleague wasn't about to leave his desk any more so I went to the reception window. "I'm from AT&TT," she said.

"AT&TT has already been here and gone," I told her.

"Two men?"


"I got separated from them. Do you know where they went?"

"Try the Office of the Building," I said. I was not at my warm and fuzziest.

"I just came from there," she said, and left.

Now, students, let's analyze this true story for an insight into why the economy is in the tank:
  • The phone company allegedly sends three people, in a tag team, to push their own customers to sign up for different, allegedly cheaper services. It's one thing to undercut a competitor's price... but your own? Does that make economic sense?

  • They were either from the giant phone company... or they weren't. Either way, whether scam artists or salesmen, they were way overstaffed. Now, I'm all in favor of Americans having -- and keeping -- jobs... but sending three people out to do a job that one could do sure seems wasteful to me.

  • Let's pretend this wasn't a scam: Wouldn't it make sense for the phone company -- if it's going to send salesmen into a building -- to have a list of customers and phone numbers? That way, when they get to Suite 1522 and Mr. Smith answers the door, they can look up Smith's name and see that his phone number is 555-xxxx. But this tag team didn't know my colleague's number (or mine, I guess, depending on whose name he really used).

  • This sales committee had no authority to do anything on its own, apparently, even with the nifty wireless laptop they were toting about. No, they had to make the customer call Nebraska Lady -- who also didn't have customer information and had to ask for its release.
Of course, at this point, like my colleague, you the reader may suspect that this was a gang of scammers, possibly from some fly-by-night phone company, but not from AT&TT. I certainly was inclined to this view... until I considered one important point.

Have you spotted it?

Think on it.

Give up?

The one thing that makes me think that this group really was from AT&TT was that, when my colleague called the number as instructed, he was put on hold for 20 minutes.

That certainly comports with my experience....

Now: Don't you think this says something about why our economy is in its present state?


Empress Bee (of the high sea) said...

that sounds suspiciously like what chuck did for awhile. they are employees of a company outsourced to att. they get a commission for upselling. they aren't "technically" crooks, just close. i'd stay far away if i was you...

smiles, bee

Jean-Luc Picard said...

It speaks volumes!

Shelby said...

A. They were crooks of some degree.
B. They were ATT people of some degree.
C. They were not ATT people of some degree.
D. They were people of some other company of lesser degree.
E. They were some combination of all the above.
F. They were none of the above.
G. They were all of the above.

or (well, and)

H. They were wasting everyone's money by wasting energy - even their own.

Which - and this lends to your theory - proves they were probably ATT people of some degree.