Mason County News
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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Wednesday, October 13, 2010 • Posted October 13, 2010

Information Overload…

On a recent Saturday, the morning newspaper TV schedule bulged with college football game listings from mid-morning non-stop until the wee hours Sunday.

I planned to watch a couple of games intently, clicking in and out of others to check scores during commercial breaks.

It was not my plan to spend the better part of a half-hour with a "live" AT&T customer service guy who effectively wore down a small forest with his verbal "beating-around-the- bush" responses to my single question: "Does my TV package include ‘the mtn’?"…

* * * * *

There were, of course, the obligatory preliminary questions before I could pose mine. Some of them were so very pedestrian, such as my account number and home address verification. Then, there was a litany of questions designed, perhaps, to hearken sweet thoughts of bygone years, with strains of "Memories" wafting in the background.

You know the drill: Mom’s maiden name, a favorite sport, place of birth, best-childhood friend’s last name or perhaps the name of all-time favorite pet?

After the usual "rat-atat-tat" of questions, one is mired in a sickly funk, realizing that the "real live person" knife cuts both ways. On the other end of the line is a guy who has a "live one," too! And he’s highly trained in the art of "reeling us in."…

* * * * *

In the following minutes, my question was lost in the backwash of the inquisitor with a boatload of questions to ask. And by hokies, he fully intended to ask every last one of them.

Do I still have two TV sets? Are there any problems with the volume on either set? Are pictures clear, devoid of "pixel issues?" Pausing for a quick draw of breath, he switched topics, honing in on our cell phones. Am I satisfied with coverage area? Ease of use? Do I realize there are numerous other cell phone plans, some of which ensure replacement if phones are dropped, lost or stolen?...

* * * * *

I interrupted to remind him of my lone question: "Does my TV package include "the mtn?"

He was in no way perturbed, and I don’t think felt interrupted. The guy had selective hearing, but was determined that I "hear it all," including his pitch about other sports packages. He never once mentioned "the mtn."

With an icy tone, I countered that we rarely view more than a dozen or so of the 200 channels in our current package, and if there were to be adjustments, it would be to reduce channel choices, not add them….

* * * * *

He was undaunted, this "pitch man" masquerading as a customer service rep. Now he would "dangle the carrot"—offering an upgraded package FREE OF CHARGE for a whole month! I shared my disdain for carrots, citing as evidence the need for eyeglasses since second grade.

Perhaps stunned by my refusal of his offer, I aimed "rat-atat-tats" in his direction—followed by periods, not question marks.

I told him that I am weary of sales pitches…. Of restaurant waitpersons’ spiels that begin with drink suggestions of sparkling iced tea or fresh-brewed coffee, when all I want is water with lemon. Of offers to be "started off" with an appetizer, and no, I didn’t "save room" for dessert. No, I don’t want to guarantee late arrival, and no, I don’t want trip insurance. I don’t want "fries with that," and no, I don’t want a new tie to complete the ensemble. I’ll forego purchasing the extended warranty for the new toaster, spending a few dollars more for seats closer to the stage or anything to have on hand "in case this one breaks."…

* * * * *

Then he interrupted—for the final time. "We’re almost through," he promised. "Please answer some questions as to the helpfulness of this phone call. This will take no more than five minutes."

I flat out refused. As to my question about "the mtn," he confessed that he found nothing about it in any TV package. We joked about "Googling it." Alas, Google revealed nothing about AT&T packages. But I did learn that "the mtn" refers to the Mountain West Sports Network. (It was nestled between "taking the mtn to Muhammed" and the song, "Go Tell it on the Mtn.")

Glancing at my watch, I realized that I had missed kick-offs of both games I’d looked forward to all week. Later, a ringing phone caused me to miss second half kick-offs, too. It was one of those automated surveys from AT&T to determine if my call to their customer service guy had been helpful. I told the recorder that I’d sooner eat a carrot—and hung up….

* * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Inquiries and calls: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Website: www.speakerdoc.com.

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