September 30th, 2005

Atacama

Fun with outsourcing

I need to come up with a new word - a word that describes the sinking feeling you get when you phone technical support and hear an Indian accent on the other end. When I hear that accent, I know that I'm going to spend the next few minutes suffering through arcane Victorian English-isms, followed by a general cluelessness unequaled anywhere else on the planet. Having worked as a technical support agent from 1994-5, I know it's not an easy job - but at least back then, we all knew what we were doing, instead of vocalizing printed scripts without having even the foggiest of clues as to what it all means.

Today, I had to call the help desk because I can't sign E-mail. I assume this is because my E-mail address is now defaulting to Christopher.Pratt instead of cpratt; a month ago, Microsoft employees were given "friendly names" because some customers were confused by our short E-mail addresses. However, my S/MIME cert is for cpratt only, not Christopher.Pratt, so either I need to get my account defaulting to the old address or get a new cert to work with the new address.

After calling the help desk, I was put on hold by a woman whose name I didn't catch due to her heavy accent. Of course, only after stumbling through the usual weird, stilted niceties. She obviously had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.

Fifteen minutes of Muzak later, she said that she was baffled because she didn't understand why I was being asked for a certificate. She said that was highly unusual and that I should reboot my PC and try again.

I asked to speak to someone who knew what the fuck they were talking about. She told me to be more professional. [OK, she had a valid point.] I then asked her for her name, and she hung up on me.

Grrrr.

Next, I tried the online chat feature:



Twenty minutes later, he still hasn't replied.

Nice to know the new friendly E-mail addresses don't actually work.

Oh, this company...
Atacama

How I Love The 21st Century

Dan and I leave for Argentina in about seven weeks. I'm tidying up all of the remaining details, e.g. the bus ticket we need to get from Buenos Aires to Mendoza.

Now, this being the age of the Internet, that's incredibly easy. Just go to the right Web site, enter personal details and a credit card number, and boom, Robert's your father's brother. It's just that easy.

I mean, I'm old enough to remember the virtual impossibility of booking a hotel room in somewhere as exotic as Prague just twenty years ago. Back then, phone lines were unreliable, no one returned paper mail, and although you may have had an E-mail address at the time, the chance of a Soviet bloc hotel having it was practically nil.

Just after I paid for our bus tickets online, I received a lovely personalized E-mail from the bus company's reservations agent:



She's asking if I'd like the beef, chicken, or vegetarian menu for the executive class dinner [it's a 14 hour bus ride to Mendoza - you spend the night on lie-flat seats].

How awesome is that?

Best of all, the tickets only cost $40 per person. The flight would've been $110.