Call Centres; the west’s version of North Korea

Recently I bought something on-line. My payment was twice refused until I had contacted my bank – by automated call, of course. It was very efficient and after I confirmed that it was indeed I who was making the purchase the payment went through. A few hours later, I received a message asking me to phone the vendor which I did.

‘We need to ask you some security questions,’ said a young woman on the other end of the line.

‘Are you sure it’s not the other way around?’ I asked.

‘We need to ask you some security questions,’ repeated the young woman.

‘Why?’ I asked.

‘We need to ask you some security questions.’

Although it was an actual, live human being, which is something of a luxury these days, I’ve known voice recognition system more flexible.

‘I am asking you why I need to be asked some security questions. I don’t mind answering, but first I want to know why.’

‘You have been selected for the security questions we need to ask you.’

‘Who has selected me and why? You speak as if security questions were like the weather. I know it’s not your fault personally, you are saying what you have been told to say, but you can understand that it is rather frustrating for the customer.’

‘We need to ask you some security questions.’

‘To repeat yourself is not to answer, let alone explain.’ Then I desisted. I gave up to make her say something other than the two or three things she was allowed to say (I was reminded of a ‘No comment’ interview with the police) and answered the questions that would certainly not have prevented an elaborate fraud, if there had been one.

I desisted not only because of the futility of continuing, but because I was increasingly aware of a bullying tone in myself. The poor young woman was only doing what she had been told to do and since the call ‘may be recorded for training purposes’ it was dangerous for her to depart from her laid down script. I began to feel sorry for her.

What must it be like to have so little room for manoeuvre in your work? I have been fortunate enough to avoid such a situation all my life, but I suspect that the hemming in of employees in this fashion, so that they live for a time each day in tiny North Koreas, is more growing more frequent.



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3 Comments on Call Centres; the west’s version of North Korea

  1. Nonsense. It is entirely possible that she was phishing you and seeking personal information you would not otherwise give. Intrusive questioning deserves no courtesy.

  2. Perhaps it’s because too many employees lack the sense and judgment to speak without a script. But are you perfectly certain it was a human being?

  3. Yes, and the odd thing is that it originates in America, supposedly the Land of the Free, and also the Home – not of the Brave but of bullying managerialism. So much lower and middle-ranking employment has now been utterly spoilt by this nasty culture.