Disclosure Uber Alles

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Apparently, the anti-outsourcing crowd thinks companies should have to tell you whether the worker on the phone lives in America. John Kerry even proposed a bill along those lines in 2003. Several smartass responses jump to mind—starting with "Isn't the accent enough of a giveaway?"—but I like Don Boudreaux's comment the best:

[R]equiring firms to reveal the physical location of their employees isn't really full disclosure. It's fuller disclosure, but it's far from full disclosure. And this distinction is relevant. There remain oodles of information about each company and its employees that is not explicitly revealed in the absence of legislation but which might well be relevant to some callers.

Here are some other things that many American consumers no doubt care about and that firms probably would not not reveal unless forced by government to do so:

– an employee's sexual orientation

– an employee's religious beliefs

– an employee's political beliefs

– an employee's attitudes toward controversial matters such as abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty

So why stop with requiring firms to reveal their employees' physical whereabouts? Why not also require firms explicitly to reveal to customers information on all of the above matters?

When Joe from Atlanta calls the Dell help center, he might then be treated to the following greeting: "Hello. Thanks for calling Dell. I'm Anokhi. I'm answering your call in Bangalore, India. I'm an atheist lesbian who always votes for the socialist party. I see nothing wrong with abortion, although I've never had one myself. I also believe in euthanasia, although I oppose the death penalty. I also feel strongly that the U.S.-led war in Iraq is immoral. How can I help you today?"

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  1. Followed soon by a Zogby poll of the political attitudes of call center employees anywhere.

  2. You can’t always tell from the accent. Many companies have received negative feedback and are giving their offshore customer service reps speech training to make them sound like native speakers of US english.

    Furthermore, many of these same companies are having their OCSR’s use “American” names like Steve.

    I called my credit card company today at ~10:00 AM EDT and the (O)CSR closed with “have a nice evening”. LOL.

  3. I don’t know. It seems like two different arguements. When you mentioned this at first, I was reminded of the case of the reservation line for a major american airline that was operating out of a texas prison. If people had known that, they might have chosen not to call the lin. As I believe happened.A number of women were stalked using their personal info (if I remember correctly one was raped).

    Although I don’t support this, it seems a bit different that the employees need to reveal that info.

    It just seems like two different topics, the kind of arguement that I see on National Review Online.

    Are you, for instance, that if a company needs to keep accounting records for itself, it should also keep its employees bank records?

    Tryin’ to get my head around the arguement, and just can’t, sorry.

  4. We should take a poll on this. But to be consistent, it would go something like this:

    “Hi, my name is thoreau. I work for Gallup polling company. I’m a married heterosexual Roman Catholic who usually votes for the Libertarian Party. I oppose the death penalty, am ambivalent on abortion, and have no problem with euthanasia if the person in question explicitly consents. I’m a US citizen calling from the US and this poll has not in any way been outsourced. Now, I’d like to ask you a few questions about outsourcing.”

  5. Damit I just want to know what they’re wearing, is that too much to ask?

  6. Forget customer service reps – I get sales calls (BtoB) from people in Bangalore and Mumbai all the time… you tell by the accent and the telltale line static from the deplorable telco infrastructure. And they all anglicize their names. The last caller told me his name was “Jeff Chambers.”

    Indian people are far too polite to be effective salespeople.

  7. Anokhi sounds cool. I have a lesbian atheist friend who’d like to meet her.

  8. A Banglorean atheist lesbian would certainly be ‘anokhi’ (unique).

  9. Best telemarketing experience ever: I received a call one evening — about two years ago, before I dumped my landline for good — and the person on the other end asked for my wife. Well, let’s put it this way — her name is Leigh-Anne, but the person, with a very strong Indian accent, asked for Leg Ann. I asked, “Are you a telemarketer?” and he replied, “I would like to speak to her about an offer we have for her.” I said, “Well, I’m pretty sure she won’t want to talk to you, especially since you don’t even know her well enough to pronounce her name correctly.”

    So he starts in with the attitude. “I am sorry but your names are very difficult to pronounce.” (!!!!!) To which I replied, “Buddy, you called me, not vice-versa. If you’re going to call my house to sell shit we don’t want, you’d better be able to pronounce my family’s names. And put me on your do-not-call list.” And promptly hung up.

    I do not miss my landline phone even a little tiny bit.

  10. Skeptikos, that is the most horrible thing I’ve heard today. Good Lord.

    Minor Threat, Zogby’s call center polls are worthless, because he always over-samples college educated women living in villages with open sewers – part of his agenda, no doubt. The only really good numbers you see about call center employees come from Gallup.

  11. Skepticos: I think there’s a difference between imposing these sorts of rules on private transactions and imposing them on transactions with wards of the state, who are already being hired with a host of special requirements attached. (I also don’t think prisoners should be doing that sort of work in the first place, but I guess that’s another issue.)

  12. All those items mentioned (“an employee’s political beliefs”, etc.) are largely irrelevant to a business transaction involving money.

    To give an extreme example, if a company is using Chinese prison labor it’s quite a bit different from whether an employee is a Level 3 Wiccan.

    OT: remember that post linking to the Huffington parody and remember how I said I was working on something similar, and how great minds must think alike? Well, here’s a slightly silly preview for those interested: Huff And Blow. It’s just a preview.

  13. A number of women were stalked using their personal info (if I remember correctly one was raped).

    I think I saw that episode, too. Wasn’t that on OZ?

    When I get a telemarketer asking for “Mrs raymond”, I usually break down sobbing and tell him about how she’s just left me, taken the kids, and so on and so forth.

    I don’t get a lot of calls.

  14. i only get survey calls from verizon. i feel left out.

  15. I used to get survey calls about my beer drinking habits.

    I was the voice of a generation!

  16. All those items mentioned (“an employee’s political beliefs”, etc.) are largely irrelevant to a business transaction involving money.

    Precisely as relevant as the physical location of the person making the call, in fact.

  17. With regard to what’s relevant to consumers, consumers have a way of deciding for themselves what is important:

    I have met people who refuse to buy pizza from Dominos because the owner gives money to anti-abortion groups.

    I know a huge movie buff who still refused to see some award-winning film because the director is in exile in Europe to escape sexual assault charges (I am not a movie buff, so I recall neither the movie nor the director).

    I have occasionally eaten at a certain restaurant because they donate food to a shelter where I volunteer.

    Some people in this country decided to boycott French products after they opposed the invasion of Iraq.

    And let’s not forget the many people who prefer to buy American-made goods.

    There are so many political, social, cultural, religious, and ethical concerns that might motivate somebody to buy one product and eschew another. It is ridiculous to insist that the location of an employee is irrelevant to a purchase, because to some people it is very relevant. At the same time, it makes no sense to mandate labeling based on those factors, because the labels would be 10 pages long.

    Obviously there would be no mandatory labeling in the Property Owners’ Republic of Libertopia. In the real world, mandatory labeling does exist, but let’s at least keep it as minimal as possible and as objective as possible (e.g. physical composition). There’s no need to expand the list of mandates.

  18. So a guy who buys a major international brand (made in some asian country and assembled somewhere in central america) at some giant multinational retail chain has a problem 3 months later and calls the call center for support. Now upon hearing the tech is in Karachi and not Kansas, he is going to do what? return it or try to get his problem solved. Odds are if the experience on the phone is good he might buy another one when he needs to and if it is bad he may be inclined to switch to another maker.

    In the end, it may not matter if dopey politicians figure out there shouldn’t be a difference between imported, outsourced or whatever. The same dopey politicians might also get enlightened that the laws they make here may have little impact in some far off land. Exactly how do you, Senator, force a tech in Karachi to tell me where she is? How could you stop her from saying Quebec or Queens? Most importantly, if she is good at what she does, why should I care?

  19. At first I thought Lonewacko may have cross-posted with Jesse Walker. Then I saw that his post came almost four hours later. Boy, he must have been choosing his wording very carefully!

  20. Hi, Lonewacko here. I’m sorry I missed that comment from Jesse Walker. I usually don’t do that.

    Say, here’s another example… from real life!

    Many years ago I was an earthlink customer. I even went to their hq down the street whenever I needed spare floppies. Then, I found out their founder was a Sc|ent*l*gi$t. I changed services after a bit. I think it got even worse: Soros got involved.

    Much to my chagrin I signed up with Boingo a couple years ago, which was also from Sky Da|ton. I was glad to stop sending them money.

    OTOH, I wouldn’t stop shopping somewhere just because one or two employees were Sc|ent*l*gi$ts.

    outsourcing is to religious beliefs of a few employees

    as

    Sc|ent*l*gi$t-owned is to a few Sc|ent*l*gi$t employees

  21. “I know a huge movie buff who still refused to see some award-winning film because the director is in exile in Europe to escape sexual assault charges (I am not a movie buff, so I recall neither the movie nor the director).”

    Thoreau, your friend is probably referring to Roman Polanski, and The Pianist.

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