A decade ago, voice mail bots would say “I’ll record your message now,” and “I’ll try that number” as if “they” were real people and there was really an “I.” Now voice synthesized bots, especially with airlines and tech companies, want a whole conversation. Elevating the “I” that doesn’t exist to a conversational partner they now says “I didn’t catch that––can you say it again?” and “I thought you just said…is that right?”
It is tempting to verbally abuse these poseurs. But of course they can’t be insulted. When you say “Go to hell” they’ll say “I’m sorry we’re having trouble. I thought you said Wisconsin Dells?” Continue your tirade against them they will say, “Nantucket? Did you say you want to travel to Nantucket?”
How many times have you looked forward to conversation with a dinner or lunch companion only to get an unwanted speech at your table courtesy of waitstaff? “Tonight we feature a blanched, lanced, pureed pate basted in caramalized seasonal acorns…..”? Do deliverers of these tableside filibusters think we can’t read? And if they are going to orally deliver the food choices, why even have a menu?
It happens all the time. You’re shopping to the backdrop of a pleasant oldie on the PA system and just before the song get to the hook, a supervisor breaks in and says “Attention associates. It is time for your ten minute break. Remember to clean up the break room when you are done.” (The more employees are abused, the more likely their title is elevated to “associate.”) Other 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.” So much for anonymous browsing but it’s cheaper than hiring an employee.
Just as restaurants discovered years ago that people would bus their own tables, retail establishments have discovered that people will check out their own purchases. Except that the bot who welcomes you and asks for your debit card also often accuses 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.” Once the bot decides you are not a thief, it can’t wait to get rid of you. Before you even take your receipt it says to the presumed next customer, “Welcome. Please select your language.”
Your Personal Computer and Trainer
What exactly does the word “personal” add to computer, trainer, banker, adviser, diet plan, identification number or debt consultant except dollars? Personal as opposed to what? Having to crowd around one newspaper posted in Red Square as old photos used to show? No one feels compelled to say personal toothbrush.
Duckin’ and Divin’ Annual Reports
The worse the year, the wordier the annual report. Instead of saying we’re major down again this year it’s “In light of the scheduled spinoff of the disappointing biotech division and reengineering of the global sales network, pretax earning shortfalls are roughly equal to those seen in 2018* when annualized, weighted by country and indexed to inflation.” (*when most of you sold)