Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Bureaucratic correctness gone mad

It's a dinosaur, but some still cherish political correctness. Invidious legislation cooked up by the last government has yet to be binned. It's still an offence for example to hurt the feelings, criticise the beliefs of certain individuals - especially those of a religious persuasion. Also, London remains the libel capital of the world and many journalists think twice about attacking powerful, wealthy men and women for fear of being taken to the cleaners. The coalition government clearly still has some way to go when it comes to re-establishing the right to speak out.

But there's a more discrete, more subtle form of correct-speak still plaguing the nation. It's experienced by anyone having to communicate with public sector employees or call centre robots. We know it's a big mistake to "lose it" when disputing parking tickets or fines for exceeding overdraft limits. The blood may boil, the head may swim, but it's essential to remain calm and sweet when addressing the faceless beings on the other end of the line. For they are in control of everything you hold dear and, rather like computer software, they can "freeze" at any moment."

So here is a guide to bureaucratic correctness. First we demonstrate the way ordinary people would really like to deal with council or call centre operatives - but cannot, because it'll get them nowhere. This is followed by the correct way - because you want them to act - as indeed they should - in your interests:-

Wrong way:-

Caller: (Fuming) I went over my overdraft limit for one day and you've slapped four £30 fines on my account.

Robot: This was because four transactions happened to go out on the same day that you exceeded your overdraft limit.

Caller: It was one bloody day. My account was back in credit the next day, for God's sake.

Robot: Please will you refrain from using offensive language, caller? According to our terms and conditions, we are entitled to charge for every transaction during the time at which you are over your limit.

Caller: But why? It doesn't cost you £120 if I go over my limit.

Robot: Sorry, but those are our terms and conditions

Caller: Well, I'd love to come round to your office and slap my own particular terms and conditions on your fat, stupid, ugly, boring little arse, Honey.

Robot: Sorry, but I can have you arrested for harassment for that suggestion. I'm closing your account forthwith, pending your arrest and imprisonment for your non-payment of the fines and your use of inappropriate language.

Right way:-

Caller: I'm dreadfully sorry (smarm smarm). I am such an idiot and I have fallen foul of your rather fair and decent terms

Robot: I see that you have, caller

Caller: Would it be in any way possible for you, oh great one, to show some mercy and to forgive my little indiscretion.

Robot: Well, according to our terms and conditions you are as guilty as hell

Caller: I know, I am, oh supreme being. And I am on my hands and knees and I beg you to help me out here.

Robot: Well, in view of your supine manner, I might be able to cancel one of the four charges. That means that you'll still incur charges of £90. Do you understand that you snivelling little pig?

Caller: Yes, oh yes, oh great one. I am in awe of your kindness. And I will forever be in your debt.

Robot: Damn right you little creep. Now see you don't do it again!

And finally, here's the way it's already heading... Digital correctness gone mad...

Caller: I wish to dispute these unauthorised overdraft charges

Robot: Please press one to be transferred to a robot, press two to be transferred to a different robot, or press three to be transferred to someone who sounds human but is actually a robot - and who will tell you to take a hike.

Caller: ....