Thursday, March 22, 2012

Attack of the Surveys!

Ever notice that you can't seem to go anywhere or do anything lately without being asked to fill out some annoying survey?  "How are we doing?"  "Please take a minute to let us know how to better serve you!"  "We appreciate your feedback."  Apparently they do, because those little feedback forms are sitting on the pillows of our hotel rooms, scrawled on the back of our grocery receipts, and tucked in our checkout bags along with our new undershirts and bluejeans.  One can't even go through a Taco Bell drive through without finding such a survey, waiting there to jump out from its hiding place on top of your bean burrito to proposition you.  What's up with that?  Why are these things popping up everywhere?

Essentially, this is Big Corporate looking to improve its customer service.  They're often disguised as discounts and coupons, because they know that only really happy or really pissed customers fill out surveys.  But if they can be induced to fill them out by being a coupon or including a special offer, they can get a good feel for how individual business locations are doing.

Without ever having to visit.

Yes, folks.  The survey spares the company executives the bother of having to come down from on high and actually mingle with you peons.  After all, if they already have quantifiable data, why should they have to get on a plane to go get it?  Sure, they give up a little bit here and there to coax you into the survey with coupon discounts, but that's better than the occasional plane ticket, isn't it?

Actually, this is the latest incarnation of a trend that began decades earlier.  The "mystery shopper" would occasionally visit various locales and shop there, evaluating the service of employees clandestinely, making sure that they did their jobs right.  This was an effective tool, and often made sure that employees treated everyone well, because you never knew when or where that mystery shopper would show up.  It also gave a service-based business the latitude to be able to deal with unruly customers.  After all, if some tramp or hobo started making a fuss, the manager could simply kick him out, no muss, no fuss.

But no.  Here comes the Customer Survey.  Now, the unruly and unreasonable customer can simply retaliate by filling out a survey form, and Corporate thinks that there is a problem.  So much for accuracy in reporting!  And by customers filling these out, companies suddenly don't have to even pay the salary of the mystery shopper in order to spare themselves the hassle of dealing with the harsh realities of the daily lives of those who are less lucky than they.  Thus, some luckless bastards end up losing their $40K mystery shopper jobs, and executives can pretend they're doing a good job or giving us great service.

I've got a better idea.  Fuck the surveys!

Ignore the discounts, to hell with the coupon.  Let's have those Corporate Clods come down from their Ivory Towers and actually talk to us for a change!  We're not so bad, are we?  We don't even stink like we once did back in the days when the feudal system they're trying to reinstate was in full force.  We use fluoride!  Isn't that worth the occasional conversation?

Don't get me wrong, customer surveys have resulted in a few positive changes.  For example, checkout lanes are more prone to open up when lines grow long, because everyone from butcher to bagger can operate a register in a pinch - all to avoid the negative on the feedback form.  And your local McDonald's has an automated system which pours drinks based on the order screen data, so you'll never again get a regular soda when you clearly ordered a diet.  (And we're not far from the day when a robot will ask if we'd like fries with our order.)  And again, all because companies quake in fear at the negative survey feedback.  Still, it seems to me that if a corporation gets too big, it deserves to lose money through poor customer service.  Why should we, who aren't even employees, have to behave as though we were in exchange for some silly discount that isn't really worth the time or trouble?  Was it worth it to kill jobs of all those mystery shoppers who were just trying to support their families?

Sorry.  I'm going to ditch the damned surveys.  I see no reason I should check any boxes just so that bigger companies can drive what's left of the mom & pop operations into extinction.  I ask that you join me.  Vive la revolucion!


Friday, March 2, 2012

Rush Limbaugh Needs Namenda

How interesting.  This fracas over women's reproductive healthcare would be just the sort of discussion our nation needs -- if anybody were doing any discussing.  Instead, as usual, everyone's entrenching, listening only to those pundits they want to hear, and thinking that their positions couldn't possibly be wrong.  Well, they are.

Everyone's making a big deal about Rush Limbaugh's recent gaff in insulting Sandra Fluke, the woman who recently testified to congress about how difficult it is for broke college students to obtain contraception.  Rush called her a "slut," saying that she wants, in essence, to get paid to have sex.

Well, as usual, I was the only one to go back and listen to Rush's entire broadcast segment in context to find out just what exactly was going on, here.  What had Limbaugh's hackles up was the fact that public tax dollars are being used for college kids getting contraception.  He pointed out that it was hundreds of thousands, and then focused in on Georgetown, making it seem like that one University alone was wasting all that money, and leaving listeners to wonder just how much more money was being wasted everywhere else.  Inaccurate, of course, the hundreds of thousands includes ALL universities, and that means we're talking one grain of sand at a beach, in terms of the percentage of money being spent.  Strike one.

He then equated this to students getting paid to have sex.  Never mind that getting a free condom hardly comprises "getting paid"!  If you were told you would be getting paid to have sex, and then were handed a condom, ("Here's your payment!") you'd feel swindled!  Yet so extreme is the anti-sex agenda of the radical right that they still see basic protection as a permission slip.  Strike two.

With these two misgivings in place, he called the advocate of them a slut, and this isn't surprising given his myopia about the first two points.  The REALLY interesting part came afterward, however.  Rush said she was a slut, a prostitute, and that made us the "Johns."  He then barked, "No!" realizing that this was a mistake, and tried correcting it by saying that that made us the "pimps."  Then he realized that this metaphor didn't work, either, and confessed that he wasn't sure what exactly it made us.

He seemed then to realize that he'd crossed the line (even Rush has his moments of clarity), and tried to backpedal again.  "No, she's not a slut," he corrected.  "She's round-heeled."  As if that euphemism from the Victorian era were much better!  Strike three.

The way Rush goofed on this made it seem to me that he was unfocused, almost rambling.  Could it be that he's losing his marbles?  I would say yes.  Maybe nobody's willing to say it to his face, but he's showing the earliest signs that he's going the way of Reagan.  It's time for him to go see a doctor.

My mother, who suffers from late second-stage Alzheimer's, is currently on a new drug called Namenda, which is supposed to slow the progress of the disease.  Maybe it's time that Rush got a prescription for it.

This all stems from the whether insurance companies should be made to pay for contraceptive care.  Really, it comes from the debate on whether or not a vendor can dictate to a customer what they can or can't buy!  Isn't this exactly  the OPPOSITE of what conservative values espouse about the free marketplace?  Of course it is!  Yet, as I've pointed out in the past, as soon as the subjects of sex, drugs, religion or war come up, conservatives become in favor of big tax-and-spend intrusive government.  It's their particular brand of hypocrisy.

Example:  What if the pharmacist were a Christian Scientist.  Could that person deny all medications and demand the customer try prayer?  Ridiculous, of course.  But what's the difference between that and someone denying contraceptive medication?  Isn't it the same sort of thing?

Here's another example:  Is it wrong for Muslims to deny freedom of speech on the airwaves in blaspheming the name of Allah?  Of course it is!  But they will claim EXACTLY the same sort of violation of religious freedom if a court decision sides with freedom of speech, and the blasphemer.

Sometimes, you have to see another religion screwing up to know that your religion is doing the same, damned mistake.

Not that I'm insensitive to what it must be like for a health care provider.  If a Christian pharmacist is made to support something he or she feels is murder, that person will feel made an accessory to the fact.  I understand! Really!  But then what needs to happen is for that person to get a coworker to distribute the contraception, or else go find another job!  The day we allow a businesses' employees to dictate to customers what they can and cannot buy based on their religious preferences is the day we've lost religious freedom!

Isn't it amazing?  Take away a religious person's ability to force other people to acquiesce to his religion, and the reaction is that HIS religious liberties are being trounced!  Sorry, dude, but religious freedom doesn't mean you get to force others to your religion.

We knew it would happen this way: Religious freedom will be lost under the banner of fighting for religious freedom.  Ironic.  So fuck you too, Santorum!

Maybe all conservatives need Namenda.  After all, they can't get anything up anymore, mentally or physically.  No wonder they oppose contraception -- they can't fuck us without denying it!