They Don’t Pay Me Enough to Not Hate You

As products and services are increasingly degraded by the ‘bottom line’ imperatives of ‘free-market’ capitalists and their diamond-encrusted cutting instruments, it is more than ever incumbent on wrung-out wage slaves to deliver “customer service”. And by “customer service”, I don’t mean knowledgeable, reasonably sane employees (unburdened by poverty, debt and stress-induced illnesses) assisting their fellow human beings to make an informed choice about purchasing a service or product, and not being a dick about it. By “customer service” I mean a groveling, dull-witted scapegoat thrust into a position of customer service provider, regardless of his/her job title, who will passively bear the brunt for the inept, greed-based decision-making that goes on in ‘corporate’ when more demanding consumers realize the knob-polishing they were subtly promised in a glossy brochure didn’t line up with their expectations of a ‘happy ending’.

Anyone in the service industry, whether a big-box store greeter or Professor of Advanced Quantum Physics will have an anecdote (or 30,000) to share about ‘The Customer from Hell’. These days you don’t even have to be a customer service rep to bear total responsibility for the CFH’s happiness. As most armchair internet experts will tell you, the CFH is a by-product of a narcissistic, increasingly entitlement-driven society being driven off the rails by ‘the bad apples’ who give free-market capitalism a bad name with their shrill complaints about their ice-cream being too cold to eat. And of course, who doesn’t feel abject pity for the Mumbai-based tech worker fielding calls at 3 am from irate, obscenity-hurling HP printer buyers – and by default, side with the firm that devised a system whereby expendable vassals in ‘developed’ nations have the chance to yell at a moonlighting PhD in a BRIC country? It should come as no surprise then, that millions worldwide have already succumbed to the cognitive dissonance that occurs when slick platitudes about “valued customers” rubs up against the reality of being a debt-ridden, penny-crunching consumer of priced-at-volume goods who can now add “too fucking stupid to plug in a printer” to a long list of indignities.

A steady stream of the sort of linguistic sewage that appears on advertising, brochures, inter-office memos, motivational memes, and telemarketing manuals has permeated public consciousness to the degree that it has become a ‘dog whistle’ command for consumers to rise up zombie style, and piss on their nearest cabin attendant. Or vote for Donald Trump. While most of us can resist the temptation to urinate on the people who serve our drinks, or drive us home in taxis, a growing chunk of the populace worldwide is unsurprisingly comprised of a permanently angry underclass; those now-disenfranchised individuals with little or no purchasing power who still ‘buy into’ the promises implicit in a digitized photo of a plastic crustacean on a ‘Red Lobster’ menu and interpret it correctly as permission to inflict lasting psychological trauma on anyone pushing a broom or performing surgery.

In these times of cost-cutting and increased demands from shareholders to protect their investments from ‘wasteful’ expenditures like human beings on their payroll, executives have devised sneakier means of maintaining their privileges within an organization that relies heavily on the promise of shiny, happy people willing to bend over: Take out everything and everyone below you with a wrecking ball and worry later about the laws of physics that decree a penthouse suite requires something solid at the base to support it. Remove all trace elements of accountability, responsibility and commitment to fulfilling promises to your customers and replace them with recordings of robot voices telling you to press numbers – or until you have your entirely non-human workforce in place, use poorly compensated, ill-equipped lackeys to mop up the spillage left in the wake of another head chopping spree.

These downward thrusting, scissor-wielding-maniacs will spew alphabet-based gibberish at you in office memos as “motivating” acronyms that stand for ‘Assurance Service Speed Wellness Intuitiveness Promptness Efficiency’. Because memorizing ASSWIPE is all it takes to perform the more soul-crushing aspects of a job that Ebola-infected lab raccoons have proven in costly clinical studies to be able to perform in 12 hour shifts where only six hours have been monetarily compensated for.

In this day and age it’s possible to reduce an organization to a smoldering shell of its former self, operated by a skeleton crew of nocturnal, stripe-tailed rodents bleeding from the eyeballs and still post profits based entirely on an ability to carry out an agenda as spelled out in ‘The Book of Revelations’ or a Hillary Clinton stump speech/lap dance to a private audience at Goldman Sachs.

The same principal holds true for would-be developers of the sort of nebulous, tech-driven ephemera coveted by the people who eat gluten-free cronuts in formerly rent-controlled apartments. A “cash-strapped” enterprise will always find enough its budget to implement a cost-heavy, short-sighted, glitch-ridden measure as long as it a) Takes food directly from the mouths of baristas and b) Can be heralded as ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ in upbeat, Silicone Valley lingo. Replace a handful of pink collar administrative paper-pushers with a top heavy IT department and watch how fast your share prices surge on the NASDAQ.

If you are concerned about your increasingly diminished role trapped within a hologram simulacrum of a livelihood where the only alternative is to not get paid for pushing a shopping cart filled with empty soup cans through a busy downtown shopping area, and want to get in on the scheme yourself to help rid the world of its workforce, there’s good news: You can brew dog poo in paper cups, call it a ‘start up’ and implement that idea globally – profitably even, despite global demand for dog poo being at an all time low. As long as you can guarantee it will be dispensed by people who live in their cars and won’t flinch in the face of irate customers upon discovering they are drinking *frapoochino*, ‘investor confidence’ will ensure that your literally shitty enterprise remains afloat.

If your goal in life is to add a meaningless new title on to your Linked-In profile, then you might want to heed the following advice: At your next PDS (Personal Development Session) try to refrain from confusing it with your own diagnosis of Pathologically Dead inside Syndrome. Try to blink at semi-regular intervals during the part where your armpit stain of a manager starts dropping inspirational quotes – meaning it’s probably not a good idea to respond to “We should always dress for the job we want, and not the job we have” with “Does that mean I can exchange my dunce cap and tin cup for a hood and axe?” And whatever you do, try to refrain from replacing the toilet paper in the executive bathroom with ASSWIPE.

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Jennifer Matsui is a writer living in Tokyo and a columnist for the print edition of CounterPunch magazine.

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