THE PHONE — “Hi, this is Bonnie Sue. Recently you dealt with Disable Cable. Would you please answer a few questions about your visit? It will only take a minute or so. Was our technician on time? Press 1 for yes, 2 for no, 3 for ‘I was passed out on the couch and don’t remember.’ Did he or she smell good? Press 1 for….” Twenty minutes later Bonnie Sue’s recorded inquisition winds up with: “Do you consider Disable Cable your best service company? Press 1 for yes, press 2 for absolutely.”
Actually, I consider Disable Cable the worst company I have ever dealt with, and apparently I am not alone. The pending purchase by Comcast of Time Warner has brought out surveys that show most Americans consider their cable company the least-liked and most inept firm they use. When Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota recently asked his constituents if they favored the Comcast-Time Warner deal, he received more than 100,000 responses overwhelmingly opposed to it with many complaining about “the lousy service.” If the two companies merge, they’ll be twice as bad. As for their follow-up survey, I am all for that. Answering their questions gives me a chance to tell them what I think about their inefficiency. But I’ve got to be careful because the technicians who come out, or tell me over the phone what to do to restore service – I’ve got the company number on speed dial – are always nice, patient and must have the worst jobs in America, besides Keith Olbermann’s food taster.
One way companies seek our opinions is by including the survey form right there with the product: “Thank you for purchasing one of our RainerShine umbrellas. Please take just a moment….” Or, “Congratulations on your new Rat-A-Tat-Tat Poison. To better help us . . .” I fully expect to come home from the grocery store, open the bag and find: “You are now the proud new owner of a Heads-Up lettuce. Since we strive for perfection, we would like you to. . . .” The worst is my car company. I bought a new car, not knowing I would be drowned with e-mail questionnaires, letters in the mail, even phone calls. About once a week for the past months the company or the dealer or the salesperson contacts me to see how I like my new car. The communications are pretty difficult. I mean, wouldn’t you think someone could speak English at Lamborghini?
No CEO ever thought up this relatively new drain on our time. Rather, we are getting bombarded with these various surveys, questionnaires and feedback forms because some other company thought it up and sold the program to every single corporation in America. It is not only private firms that keep hounding us for our thoughts. Both political parties crank up towards Election Day by showering us with surveys coupled with a hook. First they fattening us up with flattery. “As a leader in your community, we at national headquarters greatly value your opinions on matters concerning our nation’s future.” Then comes the survey.
See if you can spot which questions come from which party. “Do you feel America should keep the Wall Street fat cats out of jail even though they rob, steal, burn and loot the average American?” “Rate on a scale of 1 to 2 whether the current administration should be taken out and flogged.” “Obamacare is (circle one or all): Treasonous. Unneeded since we already have doctors and hospitals. Will break the government, causing riots, mayhem and the probable annexation by Putin.” “The Affordable Care Act is: Wonderful. Imaginative. Cost free. Easy to understand once you get through the first 1,200 pages.” After you have expressed your wise opinions on such weighty matters, there is a small box to check showing which credit card to use for your donation. No one asks if you want to donate. The only question is how much? Since the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled there is no limit, just give all your money.
We must ask ourselves, first, does anyone actually read these political surveys? Anyone important? If so, which is unlikely, do they take our opinions under consideration or simply take our money? If you do send either party a check for $1 million (you are the third Koch brother, aren’t you?) enclose a note telling the pols to stop wasting your money sending out these stupid surveys.
Wait, My phone is ringing again. “Hi, this is Johnny Joe. You have been selected for a four-day, two-night cruise on the Princess Scurvy, if you can answer these two questions. Press 1 for…” This is an ad in the guise of a survey. Are you also receiving more and more phone solicitations? What became of the Do Not Call Law? That law was supposed to combat robocalls – those recorded messages that called you during dinner.. The shield doesn’t cover every caller, as we have noticed in these past campaigns. Politicians can call, so can pollsters, firms you do business with, not-for-profits and bill collectors. Also, the law only applies to residences, not businesses. That loophole for pollsters is now being exploited by salesmen.
As for the legitimate pollsters, they usually call when I’m doing something important, like sorting out my sock drawer, and I really don’t want to be bothered. On the other hand, we all want our two cents to count, our views to be considered, especially if we are leaders in the community, so I like to be asked what I think about the gold flow (towards me, of course), immigration (I’m not going anywhere) and Wall Street fat cats (are you sure this is an objective poll?). Here’s another letter. It’s from my car dealer asking is I want to be on an advisory board. Chance to win $500. Sounds good. I’ve got some advice about surveys. But first I need to take this multiple choice quiz about their service.
Ashby follows up at firstname.lastname@example.org