Phone Bots That Want a Conversation
Do you remember when, a few years ago, voicemail bots would chat with you? They would say something useful like “I’ll record your message now,” or “I’ll try that number.” They wanted to make you think “they” were real people and “I” was really human. Fast forward to today, and synthesized bots, especially with airlines and tech companies, want a whole conversation.
Their voices have mostly improved, but some are still cringeworthy. Elevating the “I” that doesn’t exist to a conversational partner, the bots now say “I didn’t catch that – can you say it again?” and “I thought you just said … is that right?”
Some people are tempted to verbally abuse these poseurs. But of course they’ve been programmed not to be insulted. Try it yourself. Just say “Go to hell” and they’ll cheerfully respond with “I’m sorry we’re having trouble. I thought you said Wisconsin Dells?” Now you can get really fired up, and if you really go off on them, they will say, “Nantucket? Did you say you want to travel to Nantucket?”
Checkout Bots at Retail Establishments
Years ago, some restaurants realized that people would bus their own tables. Now retail establishments have got in on the act, since they realized that people will check out their own purchases. The downside is that the welcome bot that is programmed to ask for your debit card will cheerfully accuse you of being a thief. “Please remove the unscanned items you just placed on the platform. Please scan them now. Help [security] is on the way.”
If the bot decides you are not actually trying to steal a few things, it can’t wait to get rid of you. If you are slow to take your receipt the second it prints out, the happy abuser says to the presumed next customer, “Welcome. Please select your language.” But wait! That shopper may be a thief too.
Retail Emcees Who Ruin a Good Song
Have you noticed they play a lot of golden oldies while you’re shopping? They must have got a great deal on those. Just as you’re listening to an old favorite, just as it gets to part you like best, such as the chorus, a supervisor breaks in and says “Attention store associates. It is time for your ten-minute break. Remember to clean up the break room when you are done.” That message is just long enough to destroy the pleasant memories it was generating in your head. (Has everyone noticed that the less employees are paid and the more they are abused, the more likely their title is elevated to “associate.” Is anyone fooled?)
Some big box retail establishments now have sensors that tell them when you have entered a certain section. “We are aware you have entered our beach towel and summer accessory section. Please let us know if you require help,” says the spyware. They save the cost of hiring a really helpful employee, but at the cost of you losing your ability to browse anonymously.
Language Abuses in Person and Print
While the abuses we just looked at are technological in nature, let’s not forget the language abuses that have also been growing in popularity. They include:
Waitstaff Soliloquies About the “Daily Special”
You’re just getting into a great conversation with a dinner or lunch companion and the bouncing waitstaff give you their thoroughly practiced speech at your table. “Welcome, and today we feature a blanched, lanced, pureed pate basted in caramelized seasonal acorns … ..” That’s how they start, saying it so fast you can’t keep up, and if you don’t stop them, they’ll drone on and on.
Maybe they think we’re illiterate and can’t read? If they really thought the menu options need to be delivered orally, why would they even bother to provide a printed menu?
Your “Personal” Anything
What exactly does the word “personal” add to computer, trainer, banker, adviser, diet plan, identification number or debt consultant except for dollars? Personal as opposed to what? Communal? Having to crowd around a single newspaper posted as photos from the old Soviet Union used to depict? No one feels compelled to say personal toothbrush or personal bed.
Dissembling Annual Reports
Printed Catalogues aren’t the only places you can be assailed in print. Noticed that the worse a year has been for a company, the wordier its annual report becomes? Instead of saying “Our stock took a major hit again this year,” the report will say “In light of the scheduled spinoff of the disappointing shopping mall division and reengineering of the global sales network, our pretax earning shortfalls are roughly equal to those seen in 2020* when annualized, weighted by country and indexed to inflation.” (*when most of you sold our stock)
All of this adds up to tech abuse, and it is also abuse of tech. What’s next, abolishing humans? Be very careful what you wish for!