Showing 1 - 7 of 7 posts found matching keyword: telephone

I was traveling through space with a little blue alien in pigtails when I was awakened by a telephone call telling me I had won a free cruise. A few hundred years ago, I could claim to be a prophet. In 2016, someone would have to be an idiot to believe that either scenario, interstellar spaceflight or free ocean voyage, was real.

Even though I grew up in the pre-cellular age, I've never been a big fan of telephone conversations. Back in my day, landline connections (which we just called "phones") delivered vastly superior audio quality (or perhaps my young ears just heard better), but even then each conversation was made of awkward pauses as each party guessed when the other was done speaking. About the only time I've ever enjoyed being on the phone for longer than 15 minutes was while engaging in phone sex in high school. Like real sex, the thrill wore off about the same time as my tongue got tired.

Now that my telephone has morphed into a personal assistant that I have nearby 24-hours a day, the telephone part of it has become less appealing than ever. I rarely feel the need to call anyone, and the only calls I get anymore are scams, like the aforementioned cruise I "won." (I only have to pay a "nominal" fee of a few hundred dollars to claim my prize: a ticket for a cruise with a face value of a few hundred dollars.) In college, I took my phone off the hook if I wanted to have sex. Now I turn my phone off just so I can sleep through the spam.

I'm beginning to think that the solution to spam telephone calls is to start charging for long-distance again. Robocalls existed in the age of analog telephones, but they weren't abused like this until technology made long-distance charges obsolete. If you made these spammers pay to place their calls, they'd stop. How many grandmothers do you have to bilk out of $9,000 to pay for a thousand telephone calls an hour?

A change in long distance rates might send us back to the days of the Sprint "Friends and Family" plans, where you got a discount on a limited number of numbers. That wouldn't bother me. I don't want to talk to anyone anyway. I gave up phone sex in the 20th century, and I haven't looked back.

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We had some rough weather in Georgia last week as a front moved through, bringing with it high wind and rain. A tornado was even spotted in nearby Troup County. The next day I found this in the backyard:

Can you hear me now?

It looked like a power line, but my building still had power, phone, and cable. To be on the safe side, I did what they tell you to do: I called the local power company. After listening to a brief automated message recorded by Scott, a county resident who also does voiceover work on the local radio, I was transferred to Customer Service where a man with a gruff voice took my number and promised to investigate. The whole experience took 5 minutes. An hour later, he called to tell me that it wasn't a power line but a phone line. "Call AT&T," he said. So I did.

AT&T is a much, much richer company than my local power company, so of course its automated message had been programmed to speak digitally by someone with a weak grasp of the English language. No big surprise that the system was completely befuddled when I told it I needed to talk to Customer Service. Eventually, it gave up trying to understand me and said, "I'm sorry that I cannot understand you. Let me transfer you to Customer Service."

The very polite woman who eventually answered told me that my problem would be handled by the Technical Support division and promised to transfer me if I would please hold the line. This is when AT&T really started playing dirty. Their hold music isn't even Musak, but some mariachi music played on out-of-tune instruments, all recorded by a drunk session engineer using an Edison wax cylinder at the bottom of a well. This "music" was what I would use if I ever had the opportunity to torture a Guantanamo Bay detainee. After about five minutes even AT&T couldn't take it anymore, and I was transferred me back to Customer Service.

This time I got a different lady who thanked me for calling AT&T and warned my that my call might be monitored. "I live in America. You learn to expect it," I said. I then explained (for the second time) that I had called because a wind storm had knocked an aerial line out of my house. She promised pay more attention to me than the last representative had then asked me to wait while her computer called up my information. While we waited, she casually asked, "so, how's the weather out there in Georgia?" I took this as a bad sign.

Eventually, this woman in the Philippines put me on hold so that she could call Atlanta to set up an appointment with a technician. My call to an 800-number about a downed line in Coweta County, Georgia, had been routed to the Philippines so that someone in the Philippines could call Georgia. Does anybody else remember when long distance used to be expensive?

The next day, the technician came and took a very brief look a the line and said that it was a long disused trunk line. "Someone cut it and just left it attached to the pole," he said. "It must have blown down in the storm." I asked him what he could do about it. "I can tie it back up there." What happens the next time it blows down? "Just call AT&T and we'll come tie it back up." Thanks, but no thanks. Next time that line falls down, I'm leaving it there.

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Verizon Wireless has been advertising their NFL Mobile app with commercials highlighting the amazing transformation of dweebs into jock-sniffers simply by staring at their cellphones. Remember that scene from Clockwork Orange where they taped his eyes open and made him watch violent videos? Apparently that's good for you now.

There are 2 of these commercials, "Andy" and "Jane." Because, like both Andy and Jane, I watch waaaay too much football, I must have seen each of these a hundred times. Unlike Andy and Jane, my incessant consumption of NFL products has yet to lure NFL quarterbacks to my backyard barbecues. Although I can intelligently discuss endgame strategy, recognize Tampa 2 coverage, and explain referee hand signals, none of those abilities has in any way improved my social standing.

These uplifting vignettes of zeros to heroes remind me of those fundamentalists who are determined to metamorphose homosexuals into heterosexuals via vigorous psychological reconditioning. Originally a lonely misfit, Andy is schmoozing with hot women by the end of his commercial. Shut-in Jane transforms from lonely cat lady to someone who yells at people on the bus. It's conversion therapy, NFL style!

Funny, too, that these commercials run almost exclusively during football games. If the NFL's product was so transformative, wouldn't I already have supermodels running their fingers through my overly gelled hair? I'm beginning to suspect that it isn't the NFL that's helping these geeks so much as it is their nifty Verizon smartphones. Mankind had expected the Rise of the Machines to involve Teutonic cyborgs, but in 2012 the end of the world has been preceded by stormtroopers of talking address books.

Think I'm kidding? Both Andy and Jane start their commercials wearing eyeglasses, and after months of staring intently at 6-inch screens held at the end of their noses, neither needs glasses any longer! "Can you see me now?" says Verizon! I gotta admit, if Telephone Jesus can restore the vision that I lost in the 3rd grade, I'll sign-up for their longest-term contract on the spot!

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I typically think of myself as a well-spoken individual, but that goes out the window when I am confronted by the stoic answering machine. Actual text from a message I left on a veterinarian answering machine yesterday:

"...I need to make an appointment for my dogs to be spayed. However, one of the dogs may have recently been impregnated by another dog, and I need her to have a, uh, tested for, uh, tested for what do you call it, uh, tested for, uh, pregnancy?..."

Suave.

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It has just been brought to my attention that my telephone service provider, Sprint, is part of an industry-wide conspiracy to charge me to access my own voicemail. ("But everyone else does it," is pretty much their response, which really goes a long way towards explaining why a stimulus package aimed at businesses is doomed to failure in the modern corporateocracy.) This, of course, has led to a recent overage charge on my cell-phone bill. While this charge is minimal, I understandably have no desire to pay it again. Therefore, from now on, I will now be turning my phone off until 7PM on weekdays. If you need me, don't call me and don't text me (that's even more expensive for me than checking voicemails!). Email me.

So if I don't answer your call, don't take it personally. (Or do. I don't really care.) I'm just ignoring you for profit.

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A friend of mine calls me and tells me that he's adding me to his cell phone favorites list. "Hey," he says, "do you want to be the skull-and-crossbones icon? It's the only thing in here that's even kind of Evil." Now THAT should be one of those sappy Peanuts "Friendship Is..." strips.

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I would like to go on record as saying that Vonage has the worst television advertisements in the history of recorded man. Essentially, their commercials boil down to the simple phrase, "idiots and criminals use our product!" Now, I'm all for the peer-pressure approach to mass marketing, but I really think that Vonage has done something wrong here.

Vonage's previous marketing campaign, something that can only be called the "Hey, look! Things are happening in the world that are much more interesting than our sales pitch" sales pitch, was bad enough. But now, their ads feature an orange cross between the Scooby-Doo Mystery Machine and B. A. Baracas' A-Team van driving by and hitting people in the heads with pizza boxes like some twisted Grand Theft Auto side-mission. (I'm sure that the references are intentional, as Vonage is trying desperately to reach people like me who are computer literate and have a, shall we say, invested interest in popular culture.) While this would seem to be a step in the right direction, rising from "please ignore our product" to "assault and battery," the recipients of the products are always the lowest common denominators of society: the stupid, clueless, or criminally stupid or clueless.

Some people will tell you that the purpose of television advertisement is to simply get the name of your product stuck in the heads of potential buyers so that when the time comes, they think of your product. And, granted, most people don't think about the commercials on tv, their eyes simply glaze over as they wait for bumper music to tell them that Wife Swap is coming back in seconds. (I had a roommate once who had the uncanny ability to perfectly time all commercial breaks in his head. We'd be watching something and he'd channel surf during commercial breaks. I'd always get nervous about returning from commercial breaks and missing the cliffhanger resolution, but he'd always click back exactly as the show was coming back. Really, I think it qualified as a super-power. I'm sure that he'd make a fascinating case study for some up-and-coming Raleigh St. Clair. As a result of this ability, however, he NEVER watched tv commercials and had no memory of any ads.) However, I think that this approach to television marketing is too simplified. What you don't want your customers to do is to think about how they don't like the message that your sending.

Take, for example, the recent Visa ad where a well-oiled machine of holiday shoppers wanders in lock-step through a cafeteria line until some well meaning but unenlightened individual pays with cash instead of his Visa card and the entire operation is halted in its tracks as the cashier fumbles with change. Visa, while everyone does wish for smooth transactions, telling them that they are robots when they use your card isn't going to endear yourself to anyone's use. While people may be mindless automatons, people hate to be reminded that they are mindless automatons.

Vonage is trying to hit that same market that Quiznos tried to tap with those two talking rat-toejam things a few years ago. (I once heard them described as Mr. Potato Rats, but I think they are officially called spongmonkeys.) As Quiznos soon learned, having unidentifiable rodents pitch for your sandwiches is a bad idea, even if it does get people to recognize your product. I haven't eaten at Quiznos since, and for the same reason, I won't even consider using Vonage. I just don't want to be among the people who respond positively to your advertising, people. (On a related note, Quiznos recently ran ads calling prime rib the "king of steaks," which so angered my father, I got an hour long lecture on cuts of meat. Needless to say, he's not eating a Quiznos, either. With all this bad marketing, it may come as no surprise that an Executive Vice-President of Marketing for Quiznos was recently arrested for soliciting an underaged girl for sex. Clearly Quiznos marketing department has a hard time figuring out what their target demographics should be.)

Why do I mention all of this? No reason, really. I just hate those Vonage ads.

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To be continued...

 

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