Telephone Culture

I think I skipped the telephone culture and came straight to the internet culture. I often forget how useful a telephone call could be.

I had been shopping for an APEX dvd player for a while. Ordering them from Amazon or Wal-Mart on-line was one option, but in addition to the shipping cost, it also sounded like it could take weeks before they arrive. After roaming in and out of shopping malls I realized the only shop that might have them on-shelf was Wal-Mart. But I¡¯ve been to the one close to Mom¡¯s house multiple times and every time they happened to be just out of stock. Why is Apex so popular? Are there really that many pirated dvd viewers?

The other day I was debating whether to check out the Wal-Mart in Mountain View after work. It would be out of my way, and I was worried that it might be another futile trip. As I was going through the store locator on Wal-Mart website, I noticed there was a phone number for each store. So I picked up the phone and called. Bracing myself to navigate a super complicated voice response system, and who knows, I might get lucky to reach a real voice on the other side at the end, even though, the body that produced the voice might sit half a world away in India¡­I was hoping he/she would have access to their inventory system and tell me whether they have APEX dvd in stock in Wal-Mart Mountain View.

Low and behold, a real person answered the phone right away. I was so shocked and almost forgot why I called. She transferred me once after I mentioned ¡°dvd player¡±. Viola! Another real person picked up the phone, this time with a slight Latino accent. After hearing what I needed. She turned to someone next to her and rapidly fired some command in Spanish. Apparently this is a real-person in the actual store that I was interested in visiting. After a few minutes, she answered my question, ¡°yes, we have them. They are priced at $34.99.¡±

I was almost moved to tears.

A few days later, I re-experienced the joy of talking to a real person when I called the pharmacy at my local super market and got my question answered in real-time.

I treasure these pleasant surprises and wondered how long would it be before these jobs are outsourced to India or China? Would I need to call some answer machine in Africa in order to know whether my corner grocer has French bread in stock this morning?

Well, I guess I could just walk down the street and find out myself. 🙂

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