Hostgator promos

So what is a newyorksubalien...

I’m a New York subalien. Don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly legal – it’s just my loving other half, official alien that he is, comes with a so-called “supermodel” visa that apparently denotes him as one possessing extraordinary abilities (falling asleep within 5 minutes of sitting down in front of the TV, remembering only 2 of the 3 items on a mental shopping list and not knowing where the dishwasher tablets live after 2 years in our apartment are just some of his many talents).

The same visa leaves me extraordinarily unable to possess that most American of entities - a “social” i.e. a Social Security Number. Calling it a “social” makes it sound like the password to some party-filled, fun-packed lifestyle. That’s not far wrong as without these all-important 9 numbers, you pretty much can’t have a lifestyle at all - no bank account, no credit card, not even a driver’s license.

So what does a subalien do? Well, like over sub life forms waiting for evolution to give them a leg up on the ladder of existence, I have plenty of time to observe and these, dear reader, are my observations…..

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Discovering the secret agents in Planet Big Apple customer care centres

I’ve just spent the last three days on hold – literally. It’s medical plan renewal time and that means hours on the phone trying to find out details about new schemes and sorting out issues with the old one. Not to mention booking flights home to Planet Europe for Christmas and trying to get a plumber to fix our loo (I refuse to call it the “john”). Although you’ll be reassured to know we do have more than one loo so I haven’t been totally holding on, so to speak.

I shouldn’t complain overly. Even getting to the “on hold” stage is a major accomplishment over here, thanks to the mysteries of local call centres. With French automated customer care centres,  I used to take great pride in the fact that my Irish-French accent  - almost always - passed the voice recognition test. Not quite so for Superalien (or “Extraterrestre Extraordinaire” as I suppose I should have called him there). He would spend his time trying to say “oui” in fifteen different ways. It was as if the French language had more tones than Mandarin.  Poor old Double-Extra would get more and more frustrated, with his “oui”s ranging from sounding like someone who had just dipped an extremity into boiling water to John Wayne telling his horse to stop.

At least, I thought, this would be one less thing to have to contend with in Planet Big Apple. Mais non!  I quickly discovered that I was the one sounding like John Wayne as I attempted to give account numbers/flight reservations/my DNA code over the phone only to be greeted with “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that. Can you try that again?”

The number 8 is a particular problem – I keep forgetting over here it usually involves two whole syllables and the only way I can get it right is by pretending I’m a grande dame of English society describing what she had for lunch in full-bodied vowels (think Dame Judi Dench and the words “I ate” and you’ll get my drift).

My apparent subnormal ability to speak the language is only compounded by my subalien, socially insecure status with no 12-digits against my name. Too many times after finally negotiating the vocal hurdle, I would stumble at the ultimate numerical  challenge - being asked to key in the last 4 numbers of my (non-existent) social security number.  With no other alternatives or options offered, my failure to respond would result in calls disappearing into thin air. Eventually out of sheer frustration, I discovered the magic key. Forget 007 – my new secret agent identity in these instances is 0000 – and it seems to work.

Suddenly a whole new world opened up to me –  I actually got to speak to real, live people (not that it meant my reasons for calling were ever resolved of course) but still, it felt better. I became bolder. On one call, when faced with what seemed like 6 million numerical options to get through to the next stage, I pressed the one number not listed - 0 - and shock horror, I was put on hold to go straight through to a representative.

And then, after expressing my pleasure at managing to break through the system, one very helpful representative let slip the ultimate password, the magic key, the way to cut your on-hold time in half. You don’t need a secret agent, just a secret word – “agent”. Just say this at any time in any call to a customer care centre and the real people come on. Now if only they were as good at getting rid of problems as James Bond!

Creative Commons License by Caroline Eagles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.