...a telecommuter ponders the extent and depths to which customer service has dwindled or "How I have learned to live and cope with those excruciating time-saving 800 numbers that are so pleasing to us all"

...Our family had to give a cat we inherited from my mom to my brother because my young son developed an allergy to her. It took this cat a long time to get used to us after my mother died...she had always been a one person cat. She did, however, slowly learn to adjust...to trust...to get comfortable with us. Just when things get going good for the five of us (my family and the cat)...BINGO!...she has to go. Telecommuting is much the same way, but don't ask me how. Our neighbor knew of our dilemma and said that we could borrow their cat, Lumpy, anytime we wanted. Lumpy is a good cat...black, lots of long soft hair, amicable on his own terms...does okay with the children. I liken this situation to one of being a grandparent and watching your grandchildren for the day. Lots of yuks and love, and when the day is over the children are gone. My family gets to pat this kitty all the time, but we don't have to feed it or change it's litter box or put it up for the night.

...How about a relationship with a big corporation these days, or even small ones? You inherit a corporation when you buy it's product. Usually after something of yours dies, like a refrigerator. It sometimes takes a while to get used to the new gizmo and the company behind it, but slowly, you learn to adjust...to trust...to get comfortable with. The company has claimed you as part of their family and that the family is now part of you. Real comfy, cozy like. Then... BINGO! You have to call an 800 number because of some minor glitch...a small manufacturing fluke. (This is where the analogy between the cats and a corporation ends). Now commences a scenario that has played itself out endlessly to a myriad of the troubled populace since the very inception of toll free misery.

...It is highly unlikely that the particular woe one is experiencing will be covered by any of the numerical options they are offering at the 800 toll free number you call. For instance...the message might tell you to press "1" if your gizmo is experiencing an outgassing caused by weak radial phalanges, and "2" might be for problems related to enveloping non-telkinetic parasitics...anyway my point is given. The "human" option is usually the last choice offered and the one most wanted. This is supposed to seem to make sense to us. If you were to intuitively push the "O" button any time during the explanation of options and hope to get someone real to help you will inevitably be redirected back to the initial explanation with the 6 or so options. If you don't press "O", then a recorded voice at the end will inevitably tell you to press "O" to speak with an authorized representative. When you do get to talk to this real live human, then the human will know nothing about what you are trying to explain, but will listen to the whole explanation regardless. Then your call will be redirected to a party who is most likely not in their cubicle...leave a message?...click. Of course you hang up and call back!..press 2...press 5...press 2 again...press "O" to get back to a human. Begging, cajoling, being stern, being maudlin, humorous, pathetic, et al seems to be ineffectual in this type of situation. On the off chance you do get the opportunity to deal with a real live person, you will be assured that your mediocre problem will be solved with total lack of selfishness. The company will cease its day-to-day affairs until you are one hundred percent satisfied. You try to get this persons name and keep it safeguarded in case you ever have to call back, you can say so-and-so said blah blah blah. Everyone MUST know so-and-so, mustn't they? If you ever try to call and talk so so-and-so again, you've been made to feel like he will be at your beck and call and will happily and immediately get off the phone with another inquisitive customer much like yourself, but not quite as important, and talk to you, their old friend in need who they will remember till their dying day. What you will get in actuality is their machine again and you will never hear back from them. When you call anyplace now that is in a position to handle complaints, including 800 services, the host will usually, yet always in a very professional manner, mumble his or her name or speak it so rapidly you will wonder what name they are actually saying "Good day, the is (Svn? Murgrlsy? Jsha?), How may I be of service today?"

...Sorry for the tangent. I just hope I'm not calling your outfit when this ever happens. Not really a good practice. The irony of it all is that the phone company does it too! It's just that sometimes you can never replace a human being. Well, sometimes you can. This is where Lumpy comes back into play. No 800 number, no putting you off. If he wants to sell you his product, he knows he must be friendly. He comes to you and purrs. Satisfaction guaranteed. When your done with him, shoo him away. He doesn't pretend to be something he ain't. A simple time-tested product. Five or six simple functions. User friendly. Hardly obtrusive. A real work at home aid. No 800 number attached.