Monday, September 20, 2010

Further lessons in being over-civilized.

The downside of e-marketing (and mail-order in general) is that there are no longer any real penalties for being an insolent scumbag, if you're on the seller's side of the equation. A CSR in Bangladesh could care less about your problems or your anger. (Have you called PayPal customer service lately?) That was far less true in the bad old days, of course, when a merchant knew that an unhappy customer was likely as not to stroll back into his store with a shotgun. Even leaving the shotgun out of it, the prospect of having to face your customersliterallymade merchants a bit more circumspect, a bit more humble, a bit more sensitive to their buyers' needs. A bit less cavalier. A bit less likely to shrug and say, "So sue me [yawn]...."

I'm not advocating violence. Really, I'm not. I've become a relatively placid individual in my old age. Really, I have. But sometimes violence, though regrettable, has its place. It keeps people in line; it keeps them from thinking (and acting like) they're repercussion-proof. It reminds everyone that there are direct consequences in life. Or there ought to be.


Anonymous said...

what is wrong with you.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, I learned long ago that after one unsuccessful attempt to get a problem resolved by a CSR, the best second step was to send a complaint to the company's Investor Relations department, knowing that this is the typical scenario set in motion:

Investor Relations clerk passes message to supervisor/manager, who forwards it to customer service manager/director, with a note to the tune of, "Why am I getting this kind of s**t?" Said s**t rolls downhill until a mid-level CS employee actually resolves the problem.

I've used this tactic numerous times (once even sent a fax to then Compaq CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer), and it has never failed to get the kind of resolution I wanted.

On a slioghtly different note, I've found that the best way to deal with commenters who offer nothing to a discussion beyond taunts, deflection, and personal attack is to leave their comments unpubhlished, let alone unanswered. But we've had this discussion before (and about the same commenters, I'd wager).

Dave Q. said...

I have also had the results that Ron has, by going to the 'parent company' CEO. Only one time has it been thwarted by someone at that level, when they 'disappeared' my registered mail. I think I like the Investor Relations idea even better; thanks, Ron.

For what it's worth, I second Ron's suggestion regarding comments.

Steve Salerno said...

Thanks, Dave. For what it's worth, I meant what I said in the post: I am not advocating violence, per se. However, two things seem beyond dispute:

1. Society often does not react to (even pay attention to) an issue or problem until there is catastrophic violence of some kind. This applies across the board, from Columbine to 9/11 (i.e. the need to be a bit more scrupulous about terrorism risks).

2. We are awfully subjective in our positions on violence--when it's "OK," when it isn't. The same people (often political conservatives) who will argue that some felon who pulled a gun on a shopkeeper should be locked up for life will nonetheless support our incursion into foreign lands where literally thousands of innocent civilians (if not many more) are killed in one fell swoop. (They'll claim "self-defense," which is basically the same rationale the Palistinians use when they bomb Israeli coffee shops.) The same people (again, often conservatives) who cheer for the death penalty each time it's applied will rail against the very idea of killing a fetus. Is killing bad or isn't it? Seems to me that you can't "parse" that answer, because then you open the door to myriad self-serving exceptions and exclusions.

RevRon's Rants said...

Steve, iMO, killing is never "good." The taking of a life - especially when that is one's intent - is always destructive, no matter how essential and/or justified.

The thing that concerns me most is how easily we seem to defend killing as a "righteous act," even when the person(s) we kill pose no real threat to us. As to the death penalty, one alternative might be to sentence individuals proven guilty beyond a doubt to life in prison, without possibility of parole, and make a poison pill available to them on demand. I've a feeling many would choose to take the pill rather than spend the rest of their lives in solitary confinement or rape camp. And responsibility for the final decision would be theirs, rather than the criminal justice system's. Plus, it would appeal to the fiscal conservatives' desire to cut costs.

Steve Salerno said...

Rev, I agree in principle. OTOH, you and I both know that we (as a society) frequently talk about people who "need killing." Supposedly both Saddam and bin Laden fall into that category (as do, on a lesser scale, Manson, Gacy et al). And we justify that attitude based on the fact that "they struck the first blow." But that's not how they see it. Even Manson justified his spree on the basis of the psychic (and other) injury that the privileged supposedly inflicted on him and other lesser mortals. And when Colin Ferguson, the famed NYC subway shooter, explained his murderous rage in terms of "black rage"...can we really say there's no merit to such feelings?

Self-defense is a relative term.

RevRon's Rants said...

"Self-defense is a relative term."

The way I (subjectively!) see it, self-defense is a response to an immediate threat. If someone says they're going to kick my butt, I'll just smile and not worry about it. If they take a swing at me, I'll respond accordingly. And if someone were to kick down the door to my house, the last thing they'd ever hear would be a very loud BANG. More accurately, two very loud bangs.

However, offending my sensibilities, or having created a situation in the past that *might* have adversely affected me or someone I close to me do not constitute threats to my safety or well-being, and don't justify a violent response. Expanding the justification for "self defense" to include all wrongs committed, either real or perceived, sounds to me like the bastard stepchild of neo-conservatism and political correctness, and should be aborted at its initial conception.

Steve Salerno said...

Rev, to play devil's advocate for a moment: What about a hypothetical situation where someone feels extraordinarily put-upon, abused every single day, has no outlet for expressing it (or perceives no outlet for expressing it), grows increasingly agitated and resentful, perhaps even feels threatened--and then one day just explodes and does the "unthinkable." In that person's mind--in that moment--wasn't he or she acting, perhaps, in self-defense? Even if the threat was not what you or I would call immediate, but rather unfolded over a period of months or even years?

Steve Salerno said...

And btw, weren't we supposedly acting in our national self-defense when we attacked Iraq? Let's even suppose that there were WMDs, and they were all over the place and pointed straight at Detroit.* Isn't the act of eliminating that potential threat an act of preemptive self-defense? Certainly it's a right that Israel has claimed for itself over and over again since its inception.

* Well, maybe that's a bad example.

RevRon's Rants said...

Mr. Devil's Advocate - Are you suggesting that we establish the criteria for appropriate behavior based upon that which is exhibited by someone who is suffering from mental illness? Deeming a violent act to be an appropriate exercise in self-defense when the individual committing the act can no longer control his or her violent impulses - even if those impulses were founded in past circumstances - is beyond the realm of a slippery slope. It's a full-scale immersion into the (il)logic of madness, IMO. In such cases, a stout dose of Xanex would be preferable to lashing out.

And if - IF, mind you - we were to actually discover weapons pointed in our direction, it would be appropriate to diffuse the situation by whatever means were absolutely necessary. In the case of Iraq - where said weapons were never conclusively proved to exist, anyway - we had the problem (and the threat) contained. Had we been unable to protect ourselves and our "interests" by way of containment, there still remained any number of alternative solutions which would not have incurred the level of collateral damage, much less, military deaths & expenditures, that are inherent in a full-scale military invasion.

We were clearly not operating from a stance of necessary self-defense, and the efforts to couch our actions as such were patently dishonest.

As far as Israel goes, they have also stepped over the line demarcating "self-defense" on many occasions, and IMO, should face consequences for the times they overstepped. The single biggest reason most people cut Israel slack is the realization that Israel has always been surrounded by nations who would wipe them off the face of the earth, given the chance. It's not paranoia if everyone is truly out to kill you.

Steve Salerno said...

Ron, all well and good, but I guess here's my question in a nutshell: How come governments--who are presumed to be sane and rely on the best thinking and allegedly pristine motives of the most upstanding citizens--often end up doing the exact same thing, as a collective, that the individual afflicted with "mental illness" does on his own? Or are we assuming that simply because a large group of people commits the violent act by mutual accord, that is its inherent justification and gives it a "moral" standing that a similar act would not enjoy when perpetrated by the individual?

RevRon's Rants said...

Unfortunately, governments are run by individuals, most of whose prime objective is to sustain and embellish their positions within the hierarchy. Faced with the alternatives of doing what is most sensible and beneficial to the populace or doing what will expand the individual bureaucrat's personal power and wealth, the vast majority will opt for the latter. And all it takes to make insanity appear sane and reasonable is an effective marketing effort by powerful forces.

Even in a supposedly democratic republic such as ours, anyone who counseled prudence in the rush to war in Iraq was branded as being "soft on terrorism." Most took the cowardly way out and looked the other way when the folly of the undertaking was shown. And in other, less democratic regimes, the risk incurred by dissenting from the party line went beyond the potential for loss of power & wealth, to the point where imprisonment or death were very real possibilities.

It is said that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link; in the theater of international affairs, the chain is dominated and defined by its strongest links, and the weaker ones are merely moved to the irrelevant ends of the chain or removed outright. Insanity becomes sane, and those "homicidal beggars" ride to their hearts' content.

roger o'keefe said...

Steve, so I guess now we're back to the "everything is relative" tirades that took Shamblog so far away from its roots. There is no relationship at all between a government declaring war, which is its right to do, and some maniac going berserk and killing blameless people. I don't even follow your thinking on these matters at all. Doing what we need to do to protect our national interests is a necessary and proper act of government. How is there any comparison to "black rage?"

Anonymous said...

Roger said,"Doing what we need to do to protect our national interests is a necessary and proper act of government." Since when is there a "we" in government. By saying that you are assuming "we" are not divided as a country and those in power do not have separate interests from the flock. There are many instances to prove otherwise.

The similarity between a government declaring war and a a killer going crazy and taking a few lives with him, is that people who never wanted any part of it are now dead. Reactive emotions play a part in both scenarios. The sad part is that in the case of declaring war. The killing of innocent or as you put it, "blameless" people is infinitely more calculated.

Jenny said...

Hey, since when were the "tirades" not a part of SHAMblog. I appreciate seeing Steve talk about whatever is on his mind. And how is this posting not connected to the blog's roots? Seems pretty relevant to me.

Voltaire said...

On this one you might reconsider your position because the same internet that allows a CSR in Bangladesh to ignore your pleas for help can also be used to make their life miserable.

I also find it interesting that the picture embedded in this blog entry mentions routers. One problem with hardware with built-in software is after a few years the vendor simply quits updating the software. This leaves you, the customer, open to new defects that hackers find in the software. Your hardware slowly goes out of date, forcing you to buy new hardware. This is EXACTLY what the vendor wants so they can sell more hardware.

I have a router that has exactly this problem and I find it irritating to have to buy something new or risk getting hacked. Just this morning I came across a possible solution .

RevRon's Rants said...

"Doing what we need to do to protect our national interests is a necessary and proper act of government."

I can name a number of instances where governments' acts - in their national interests - have been anything but proper, Roger. And necessary only in fulfilling a less-than-honorable objective. While I find it disturbing for other nations to commit heinous acts "in their national interests," it is much worse to me when I see my own country engage in such acts.

Face it... there have been many maniacs in charge of governments who march into completely unjustifiable wars, resulting in the deaths of millions of blameless people. Claiming that there's a difference other than sheer scale is, IMO, little more than rationalizing barbaric behavior.

Mike Cane said...

Bukowski: "The Shoelace"

There was also a wonderful clip from "Lonesome Dove" on YouTube, showing how to react to rotten customer service. Alas, the DMCA killed it.

Steve Salerno said...

Mike: And I thought I was a Bukowsk-o-phile! How did I miss that one?

Thanks for linking to it. Great poem, and painfully true.