There should be – and maybe there is – a school of commercial writing somewhere. The little gems we are subjected to in the course of doing business are simply appalling. Take “Can I help who’s next?”, for example.
The answer to that is “No.” You have no control over who is next. You can help whoever is next. You can take the next order. You can help the next person in line. But you can’t help who’s next any more than you can help the shape of your nose – by which I mean, either one will take some rearranging, and at the end of the whole process someone’s nose will be out of joint.
This past Friday David and I went into Thessalon for supper, because two lovely women had come out to my house and spent a considerable chunk of change on ceramic buttons. As we drove home up Highway 129, we noticed a dead balsam had come down onto the power and phone lines about a kilometer south of our place. When we got home, it was clear we had neither power nor phone, and a quick tour of the valley showed us the power was down there, too. Back we went into Thessalon to report the incident.
Ontario Hydro was – once I got past the queue and the mind-numbing muzak – really easy to deal with. “Hi,” I said, “my power is out and I know exactly what and where the problem is.” The operator was delighted. “You’re exactly the kind of person I like to talk to,” she said. In two minutes she had all the information she needed. It was quite a pleasant call, considering the circumstances.
Then I talked to Bell.
Faisal – the poor sod who had to deal with me – had a mouthful of oatmeal and the high level of intelligence and initiative that we have come to know and love in call-centres the world over. But to do poor Faisal justice, he was not responsible for the script he’d been stuck with, and from which he was probably not permitted to deviate.
After he asked me to recite every speck of information in my file “for security purposes” (whatever that means!), he asked me what the problem was.
“A tree has fallen on the phone line about a kilometer south of my home on Highway 129,” I said.
“Is it an overhead line or an underground line?” he asked.
I showed incredible restraint here, people. I did not whack the receiver against the wall and say, “Helloo-oo??” As I said, it wasn’t his fault.
What I do wonder, though, is who writes this stuff. “Has the tree fallen on an underground line? “, indeed. It’s right up there with “This is a courtesy call,” for calls which are just plain rude interruptions, and “Will you confirm some information for me?” followed by a slew of questions like “What is your address?” (Confirmation of information means you tell me what you have, and I’ll tell you if it’s right or not.)
Ah, well. It was good for a laugh in the end, and by dint of my sparkling forceful personality I got what I wanted, which was the phone service fixed the next day (instead of the Monday appointment Faisal assured me was the very best he could do). If they won’t give it to me because I’m so nice, they’ll give it to me to make me go away.
But a word to Bell: hire a better scriptwriter. Someone, preferably, who’s being paid enough to think about it.