Any business is tough. To persevere in this economy, it takes great fortitude to move the proverbial needle and grow. As such, I will periodically indulge a cold call from a salesperson, particularly if he or she represents a Long Island-based company. It’s the “kioli” thing to do, after all. Recently I received a solicitation from Cablevision to join the Optimum business service plan from an earnest salesman eager to learn whether our company would be interested in their offer. We were, indeed.
The call began with the normal platitudes one would expect from a scripted pitch. The caller identified himself as a representative from the Optimum business calling service and inquired as to whether he was speaking with the person in charge of making telephone decisions. He was. He asked if I was familiar with Optimum and would be interested in hearing about an exciting new business offer. I was.
He was delighted.
He proceeded to tell me the good people at Optimum were offering 40-to-50 percent introductory discounts to join the Optimum network. Now I was delighted! My euphoria was fleeting, however, when he discovered that I was already an Optimum customer, at which point he graciously thanked me and attempted to end the call.
Not so fast, mister.
“Where are you going?” I innocently inquired.
“The offer is only good for new customers switching from services like Verizon,” he offered flatly and again bid me a good day.
“That hardly seems fair,” I protested futilely.
“I’m sorry, sir. Thank you for choosing Optimum and have a good day.”
It was all downhill from here.
“Your method seems punitive to those who support you,” I shot back.
He seemed nonplussed by my incredulity. “Pardon me, sir?”
“It’s just that I have never understood that strategy. Offer everything to someone who has given you nothing at the cost of those who have already supported you. It’s like giving away Knicks tickets to bring more people to the Garden and charging season ticket holders more to cover the cost.”
“I don’t understand what you’re saying, sir.”
“I figured that would make sense since you own the Knicks as well. Are you a fan?”
“Sir, I’m having trouble hearing you.”
“OK, I take it you’re not a fan of the… Wait. Did you say you’re having trouble hearing me?”
“I’m sorry, hello?”
“Are you on the Optimum service?”
“And you’re having trouble hearing me?”
“So you’re calling me about a discount I can’t have on a service that doesn’t seem to work all that well and you’re not a Knicks fan?”
“Thank you for choosing Optimum, sir. Have a good day.”
Incredible. Perhaps I have spent too much time on this page with Mr. Della Femina, but outsourcing sales calls and customer service abroad is the worst kind of profligate corporate behavior being propagated in board rooms throughout the nation. While I understand the economic concept behind the foreign-based call center, you cannot reasonably expect someone from Bangalore to understand the mind of a Long Island business owner. Hell, you can’t expect someone from Akron to understand us. The reason someone from Long Island appears on nearly every reality TV program is that we’re—how should I say it?—special. Different. Unique little snowflakes who expect more than a $2 an hour employee from another country with a standardized script and zero understanding of important cultural reference points like My Father’s Place and Bobby Nystrom.
Lest I throw too many stones in this glass house, a friend recently reminded me the Long Island Press is printed by—outsourced to—a company in a far off land—New Jersey. Alas, it is the truth. However, there is only one company on Long Island with presses designed to handle a newspaper of our size. Unfortunately, it too is owned by the company that owns the Knicks. Perhaps I should endeavor to reach out to my new friend and see if the 40-to-50 percent discount applies to printing as well. If only the phone service wasn’t so spotty.