May 18, 2006

· Misc

Wil Shipley, who writes the excellent Delicious Monster (BibTeX export and nice integration with LibraryThing in the next version, please please please) had his identity stolen recently. The story is the by-now standard one of frustration and anger, and is as yet unresolved. As Kevin Drum has been saying for some time, the law in this area is basically broken: the companies need to be responsible for fradulent accounts, just as banks and not customers are responsible if money gets robbed from the local branch's safe.

Wil's case is typical. He's absorbing all the costs of getting his money back out of a frozen E-Trade account, because E-Trade could care less and has no incentive to bother helping him out. Until the law is changed, of course, Wil still has to deal with this himself. One of his commenters makes the following interesting suggestion about dealing with the company over the phone:

Even more important, never hang up. Most call center personel are expressly forbidden from hanging up on you. Simply stay on the line until they think of a new solution.

Sounds plausible. My brother runs a call center that handles the North American traffic for a financial services company. I'll have to ask him whether this is true. Howie Becker tells a similar story about dealing with recalcitrant call center staff. He had learned from a relative that, at his airline, difficult-to-manage customers were labeled “irates.” First the representative would try to fix the problem, but if the caller persisted they would get bumped up to a supervisor. The representative would tell the supervisor, “I have an irate here”, short for “irate customer.” Becker decides he might as well cut straight to the supervisor, so he calls the airline and says “Hi, I'm Howie Becker and I am an irate. Can you help me with this ticket?” The representative sputters, “How did you know that word?!”

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I am Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m also affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics. Read a brief overview of my work or my Curriculum Vitae.



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