Prove You Care

There seems to be an alarming trend in email links, just when I thought we had conquered linkrot and instilled the importance of permalinks. (Permalinks take you to a specific blog rather than the home page, you get them by clicking on the blog post title, then copying the url.)

In the past week, I’ve gotten several “special offers” from organizations to which I belong. In each case, the prices were hidden. I clicked on the link in the email, couldn’t find the price, and then flailed around the website, to no avail. When I wrote the organization, they sent me a patronizing reply, and a link, which they tell me “I could have easily found” but don’t tell me how. Twice, the price wasn’t on the linked page, either. If I want lousy customer service, I’ll call Verizon.

Vinland mapAren’t we supposed to make things easy for the client? Neither of these organizations were puzzle-creators or map-makers. One of them wrote back telling me that if price is a concern, I probably wasn’t the right person for them, as they wanted to “partner” with people who cared about outcomes, not price. Who wrote that script? Former est-seminar leaders? Do they think I have such low self-esteem that I will sign up for something without knowing the price?

They must be related to the catalog phone order takers who often take a list of items, then don’t tell me what the total is. In fact, they tell me they CAN’T tell me what the total is because shipping is added later. OK, call me later and tell me. At least tell me the product total so I can see if I’m being scalped by the shipping charges. They can’t do that, either. I have to add up the items before I call and then check the shipping price when the item arrives.

Am I the last person on a budget in the universe? I’m also the last person in the universe who cares about how I spend my time.

I used to have a boss who, every time I updated him on a project, would add to the scope of the project. I once asked him how to spell the name of a personal contact he wanted me to call, and he told me to get the company’s annual report and look it up. The annual report wasn’t online, and it took a week for it to arrive. Meanwhile, he’d played golf with the contact twice, but was too busy to spell his name for me.

I thought I’d gotten rid of that aggravation when I opened my own business, but not at all. Yesterday, a company called me about a training course. When I asked for their phone number, the woman said, “It’s on our website, on the ‘contact’ page.” It would have taken her less time to give me the phone number than send me to look for it.

Is this a new power sign? Is the new attitude, “I can order you around because I have the information you want?” Or is it a massive laziness that, when discovered, is blamed on the asker?

–Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches Plain English, how to write effectively, and hates to use the word “partner” as a verb. See her work at QuinnCreative.com (c) 2007 All rights reserved.

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2 thoughts on “Prove You Care

  1. I think it’s because “what people know” is changing. When I store information somewhere I expect to find it again, I remember where it is but not what it is. I don’t know phone numbers because they’re in my phone, for example. The people you’re calling probably have to look the information up just like you would, and they probably really don’t know the answers to your questions.

    In my office there’s a receptionist who has a “generic” phone number for the whole building. I have no idea what it is. We don’t have desk phones so there’s no way to pick up the receiver and press “0” to contact reception.

    Another even odder thing is that I work on cell phones all the time, and eventually those phones can be purchased. But I know them by code name, not product names. You could ask me what I think of the “7945 phone” and I would have not a clue what it is, even though I spent 500 hours on it two months before.

    I’m convinced we live in a time of turmoil when our fundamental ideas and ways of thinking are changing in ways we probably aren’t very aware of. This is pretty cool, as it only happens rarely — and we keep track of those times afterward by giving them names like the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and so on. It may be that right now will someday have a name like that. Or maybe one of the things changing is the idea that it makes any sense to name a time.

    Power through controlling information is an old thing. Power through relinquishing all control over information is a new thing, and a different kind of power, or at least the power tends to accrue to different people.

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