Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Phoney Baloney

First, it was that you couldn't get a human being on the phone when you called (insert company). It's still that way, of course, but now I have a new beef.

You can't even get a human being on the phone---when YOU'RE the one being called!

I suppose they're called "robo calls"---the phenomenon of automated systems dialing you with pre-recorded voices on the other end of the line.

Some of these calls are slickly done; they start out sounding like a real person.

Technology has improved. Time was, pre-taped messages sounded, well, pre-taped. These new calls sound like people, because there isn't that AM radio-like hiss or static.

I've been fooled.

I got a call several months ago from some financial planning dude named John Stephens. He sounded very casual and friendly.

"Hi, this is John Stephens," he said in a manner and tone that suggested that he and I were longtime friends. I actually started to talk to the guy---before finding out that he was no guy but some recording!




This morning I received two such calls---one from someone wanting to know if anyone in the household had diabetes, and a "courtesy" call from CVS pharmacy reminding us of a prescription that needed to be refilled. Both recorded.

But there's an advantage to these recorded calls: you can hang up on them without feeling guilty.

"John Stephens," by the way, has called me several times since, but now I don't fall for his casual, nice guy routine. I've even stopped talking back to him.

It's starting to feel like a "Twilight Zone" episode---millions of phones in this country without people on the other end, both calling us and taking our calls.

How long before these computerized operators start calling each other?

Will there be a day when the computer answering my call at the electric company runs afoul of its software program and dials "John Stephens"?

What a conversation that would be!

I wonder if John fills his scripts at CVS.

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