Janet's Jargon

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Outsourcing--it finally makes sense

Most of you know that I used to live in Grand Forks ND. North Dakota has some wonderful senators and a fantastic representative. Yes, there is just one. His name is Earl Pomeroy, and he happens to be my daughter's best friend and former roommate's cousin, which helps if you need something from DC in a hurry. In case you haven't heard, or don't remember, the number of representatives is based on the population of the state. Enough said. I'm not sure, but Rhode Island probably has more representatives than North Dakota does.

One of the senators is Kent Conrad. He holds a special place in my heart. After the Great Flood in 1997 in Grand Forks, Ivan's military medals were lost. I don't know if somebody in Winnipeg ended up with them, but it's possible. I have often said that things are so backwards in North Dakota that even the river flows the wrong direction! Anyway, Sen. Conrad helped me get replacement medals for Ivan for his last Christmas. It meant the world to him.

The other senator is Byron Dorgan. I think he's my favorite of the trio. Why? I don't know. Maybe it is just because when I contacted him (through Mission Socorro, the charitable organization Ivan and I ran in the Red River Valley for over 30 years) to help a person who was having problems with things like Social Security or Medicare, he always came through.

Anyway, a couple of years ago Byron Dorgan became a fellow author. The subject is "Outsourcing." You know what that means: sending our work to foreign countries because it is "cheaper." I happen to agree with Sen. Dorgan very strongly on this issue. We have massive unemployment in our own country, so why should we be paying the wages (even if they are lower) for people halfway around the world?

One of my biggest gripes is when you try to call a technical support person. You dial a toll-free phone number, and then you try your dead level best to make them understand you, and vice versa. I have learned one little trick; if you punch the number they suggest if you speak Spanish, you might end up with a Spanish-speaking person in the US. I have no idea if they are here legally or not, but if you are bi-lingual in Spanish/English, the call usually goes through much faster. But for some reason, if you choose the English option, it seems like the majority of technicians are someplace in India.

I have nothing against the Indian people. In fact, I have a couple of very good friends who are from India--a long time ago. But when I want an answer to why a certain software program won't work the way they tell me it should work, I want somebody that I can understand, and who can figure out what I'm talking about.

Well, today is Memorial Day. I was volunteering at the Amberg (WI) Historical Society's Museum complex as a tour guide from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Shortly after noon two cars pulled up in front of the museum and a group of foreign-looking young people got out and made their way into the main museum building. They took their time in there, and then they came to the old town hall building where I was giving the tours. The first young man came in, and I asked him where they were from. That is a common question, as the museum gets visitors from all over the country. He replied, "I live in Chicago, but I'm originally from India." Yes! It was that same accent I had heard on all of those technical calls! I asked him what he did in Chicago, and he replied, "I am a software technician--you know, a troubleshooter."

I couldn't help it. I just had to ask. "You mean when I call that toll free number because I can't figure out your software and I get some guy that, when I ask him where he is from, answers 'India,' and it is really you--sitting at a desk in Chicago?"

The poor fellow. I thought he was never going to quit laughing. But at least I felt a whole lot better, knowing that at least some of those calls are going to people right here in the good old U.S.A.!


  • At 9:04 PM, Blogger Joyce Anthony said…

    Ah...so now we know :-)

  • At 9:27 PM, Blogger Sylvia Kaye Hamilton said…

    Very frustratiing when you have to ask over and over again what they are saying. That's one reason I left Earthlink. The techs were nice but you couldn't understand a word they said. My provider now is English. I'm now a happy computer person. Nice blog Janet.

    Pee Wee

  • At 9:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Actually a LOT of calls are now taken in South America. I used to work in a callcentre in Buenos Aires. Nope, callcentre isn't a mistake. I'm British and that's how we spell it!
    I only wish my Spanish was half as good as their English.
    And you would not believe the racist comments they have to put up with. I had to laugh one day though, a guy who hates Brits rang up and spoke to Kevin, the only other Brit here (imagine coming thousands of miles and meeting a guy from 12 miles from where I was brought up.) Anyhow this guy hung up on Kevin, dialled again and got me - then accused me of being Indian because I spoke British English.
    One guy rang up about a rebate saying he'd got it and "tell that Indian bitch she can ..."
    I checked his file. It was staff in El Paso, Texas who tried to defraud him and did it in such a way that nobody in the callcentre could prove that the applicant hadn't made the mistake himself. But as usual he blamed the callcentre staff.
    Another one said, "Oh, Buenos Aires? That's near Africa isn't it?"

  • At 7:26 AM, Blogger Lynn McMonigal said…

    It is nice to know some of the calls are in America. S till, and I may get hate mail for this, I think if you are working here, you need to be able to speak English in a clearly understandable way

  • At 7:27 AM, Anonymous Nina M. Osier said…

    Priceless! One of the reasons I chose my ISP and phone company (it's both) is that it is, so far at least, located right here in Maine. When I call I may have to sit on hold for a few minutes, but I get someone who understands me and answers me in my own language. I don't consider this racist. It's just getting the service for which I'm paying.

    I don't treat call center folks with accents rudely, but I do try to take my business somewhere else if I consistently get someone with whom I can't communicate. Again, not trying to punish or insult anyone. Just trying to get the service for which I'm paying.

  • At 11:08 AM, Anonymous KK said…

    Hi Janet!

    I find outsourcing annoying also. There were 3 Presidents, who after the war, sent illegal immigrants home in order to give jobs to the returning vets. One of them was Esinhower and another was Hoover, I believe -- can't recall the second one.

    At least they had one thing in mind -- that one should help one's fellow countrymen. In this day and age of 'Globalism' I think it does well to say that this might be another name for us all sharing the scarcity -- where none but a few hundred people are wealthy, and those people feel they have the 'right' to inflict their whims (be they good or bad) on the rest of us.

    America wasn't built on those principles. So outsourcing in my consideration is another word for Treason. Harsh, but I think if one really thinks it through, true.


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