Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Using People Until They’re Obsolete

“Options are provided for you. Check the box that suits your problem.” Corporations have instituted online automation for many of our communications. The idea is to speed interaction using the fewest possible employees working for the lowest possible wages, and they cited COVID-19 as an excuse to stop dealing directly with people, although they had already moved in that direction long before COVID arrived. The idea is to maximize profit and minimize cost…not for the consumer—for the money people on top, as usual. The goal is to manipulate the consumer as a tool (double entendre intended). Online “help” doesn’t.

The comfort, convenience, and economy of the people paying the bills hasn’t been a high priority for many, many years. I remain amazed that so many people have been duped into serving the needs of greedy billionaires to their own detriment—to the point of acting against the principles of their own country. Thanks to our cooperation, we are all victims of planned obsolescence. Our devices obediently stop working properly at some prearranged point, regardless of how carefully we tend them. I have a clandestine refrigerator from the 1970s hidden in my basement, and it chugs along, not knowing its source company went out of business and was bulldozed into a parking lot long ago. Our upstairs refrigerator “replacements” have been prettier but dutifully expired according to their contracts.

Following the mandate of short-lived devices, I bought new cell phones this week and proved to myself that human compassion and flexibility have been eliminated from e-commerce as much as possible. I did not have a problem that fit in the automated boxes. The lives of my devices are as complicated as my own. My online “chats” attempting to address my problems were generic and useless. At one point I was instructed to refer to directions that suggested I just place my old phone beside my new phone and transfer information, as though I had the ability to execute those instructions. The fact that transfer was impossible given the obsolescence of my old phone—the raison d’être of my phone purchase—didn’t matter. My humanity was no more important than a damaged shipping container might be. My husband even resorted to exclaiming, “We’re old people!” to the support person, but that didn’t help.

Enter the cavalry. One kind woman on a telephone help line helped me preserve my composure and my dignity as a human being. I wish her all things beautiful. She stayed on the line for over an hour until she was able to construct an applicable order for me, laughing, empathizing, talking to me as though we were both people deserving of consideration.  My second hero worked in the store where my husband and I went to pick up the phones we had purchased, despairing that we would be able to transfer our data. She ushered us to a quiet spot and stepped in to do what we had been told would not be possible: she helped us for an hour. How pathetic that people who are spending impressive amounts of money have to feel humbly grateful for assistance with their purchases. I remember the first time I entered a department store and was forced to follow a clerk around, extending my desired merchandise, asking her to please take my money. Even then I thought, “What’s wrong with this picture?”

At the risk of sounding liberal, I believe people should treat one another with respect and honesty. People are not things, nor are we born to serve corporations. When we buy a product, that product should be the best, least harmful product inventive minds can construct, even if excellence means smaller profits. We’re meant to work together with others.  As we institute a federal Juneteenth, let’s celebrate the dignity of all humanity and the true meaning of our lives.

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